When one interviewer mentioned the “Church policy” that “blacks had the mark of Cain,” President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “It’s behind us. Look, that’s behind us. Don’t worry about those little flecks of history.” (Interview with Mike Wallace on the 60 Minutes television program, broadcast 7 April 1996, on the CBS television network.)
It is my intention in this post to present evidence that this subject is still relevant to the Church today, and that not only is it worthy of discussion, but that members of the Church should in fact be very worried about it. In other words, I will present proof of the following indisputable facts:
- The scriptures (or “Standard Works”) clearly teach that in ancient times a certain black race of people were cursed from holding the Priesthood.
- Church leaders have taught that modern-day black Africans are of that same cursed race mentioned in the scriptures.
- Church leaders have taught that this curse has not yet been removed.
- Church leaders have taught that so long as this curse remains, modern-day black people cannot hold the Priesthood, and that if other races intermarry with black people, they will bring the same curse upon themselves and upon their posterity.
- Church leaders have taught that this curse would not be removed until after the end of the Millennium, and thus blacks would not receive the Priesthood until after the end of the Millennium.
- Church leaders have taught that if the Church were to prematurely give the Priesthood to its black members, as well as permit interracial marriage with black people—before the curse has been removed—the Church would instantly lose the Priesthood, and would thereafter be destroyed.
- Since the 1960s, some Church leaders have expressed their disagreement with the Church policy of witholding the Priesthood from its black members, and have stated their belief that there is no scriptural justification for it.
- In 1978, Spencer W. Kimball and other Church leaders publicly claimed that they had received a revelation from the Lord giving them permission to extend full privileges to every worthy member of the Church, reglardless of race or color.
- In 1978, the Church began ordaining black men to the Priesthood, and began allowing white members of the Church to marry black members of the Church.
- The alleged 1978 revelation contradicts the statements of former Church leaders in regard to when blacks would receive the Priesthood. Bruce R. McConkie has publicly admitted the existence of these contradictions, and has asked members who are aware of them to forget everything past Church leaders have said on the subject prior to 1978.
- Strong evidence suggests that black people are still under the curse.
- The scriptures teach us that when the Millennium commences—when God restores and sets many things right—black people will no longer be permitted to enter the Temple.
Q.—What happened after Cain killed Abel?
A.—“The Lord set a mark upon Cain” (Moses 5:40). “God [also] set a mark upon his posterity” (Brigham Young, 25 Dec. 1869, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, vol. 5 [1868–1877], edited by Richard S. Van Wagoner [Salt Lake City: The Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2009], p. 2693; capitalization modified).
Q.—What exactly is this “mark”?
A.—It “is the flat nose and black skin” (Brigham Young, 9 Oct. 1859, “Remarks,” reported by G. D. Watt, The Deseret News [weekly], vol. 9, no. 34, edited by Elias Smith [Great Salt Lake City: Published by Elias Smith, 26 Oct. 1858], p. 266; also in Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, edited by Amasa Lyman [Liverpool: Published by Amasa Lyman, 1860], p. 290). “You will see it on the countenance of every African you ever did see upon the face of the earth or ever will see” (Brigham Young, 5 Jan. 1852, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, vol. 1 [1832–1852], edited by Richard S. Van Wagoner [Salt Lake City: The Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2009], p. 468).
In ancient scripture, we read that “the seed of Cain were black” (Moses 7:22).
Q.—Does this mean that modern-day black people are descendants of Cain?
A.—“If there never was a prophet or apostle of Jesus Christ [that] spoke it before, I tell you, this people that are commonly called Negroes are the children of old Cain. I know they are.” (Brigham Young, 5 Jan. 1852, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, vol. 1 [1832–1852], edited by Richard S. Van Wagoner [Salt Lake City: The Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2009], p. 468.)
Did any other prophet speak it before Brigham Young? Yes. Joseph Smith Jr. said that “negroes” are the “sons of Cain” (25 Jan. 1842, “History of Joseph Smith,” The Deseret News [weekly], vol. 5, no. 20, edited by Albert Carrington [Great Salt Lake City: 25 July 1855], p. 153; also History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, vol. 4, introduction and notes by B. H. Roberts [Salt Lake City, Utah: Published by the Church via Deseret News, 1908], p. 501).
Q.—Are Cain and his posterity cursed from holding the Priesthood and from receiving the ordinances of the temple?
A.—“When the mark was put upon Cain, … the Lord told Cain that he should not receive the blessings of the Priesthood, nor his seed. … A man who has the African blood in him cannot hold one jot nor tittle of Priesthood. Why? Because they are the true eternal principles the Lord Almighty has ordained, and who can help it? Men cannot, the angels cannot, and all the powers of earth and hell cannot take it off; but thus saith the Eternal I am, what I am, I take it off at my pleasure, and not one particle of power can that posterity of Cain have until the time comes that the [Lord] says he will have it taken away. … In the Kingdom of God on the earth the Africans cannot hold one particle of power in government. … It is the Lord’s will they should receive the spirit of God by baptism, and that is the end of their privilege; and there is not power on earth to give them any more power.” “Any man having one drop of the seed of Cain in him cannot hold the Priesthood, and if no other prophet ever spake it before, I will say it now, in the name of Jesus Christ, I know it is true, and others know it!” (Brigham Young, 5 Jan. 1852, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, vol. 1 [1832–1852], edited by Richard S. Van Wagoner [Salt Lake City: The Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2009], pp. 468, 469, 471.)
“No one known to have in his veins negro blood, (it matters not how remote a degree) can either have the priesthood in any degree or the blessings of the Temple of God; no matter how otherwise worthy he may be.” (The First Presidency, c. 1907, in Lester E. Bush Jr., “Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, vol. 8, no. 1, edited by Robert A. Rees [Los Angeles, California: Published by the Dialogue Foundation, Spring 1973], p. 38.)
“From the days of the Prophet Joseph even until now, it has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by any of the Church leaders, that the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel.” (Letter from the First Presidency to Dr. Lowry Nelson, 17 July 1947, in John J. Stewart, Mormonism and the Negro, first edition [Orem, Utah : Bookmark Division of Community Press Publishing Company, ©1960], pp. 46–47.)
Q.—What happens if a black man has the Priesthood conferred upon him, or he is ordained to an office in the Priesthood?
Referring to an instance where “the elders of the church laid hands on a Negro and blessed him ‘apparently’ with the Priesthood,” Joseph Fielding Smith said that “they could not give that which the Lord had denied” (Letter to Mr. Joseph H. Henderson, 10 Apr. 1963, copy in possession of the author of this website).
As previously quoted, Brigham Young said that “It is the Lord’s will they should receive the spirit of God by baptism, and that is the end of their privilege; and there is not power on earth to give them any more power.” (5 Jan. 1852, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, vol. 1 [1832–1852], edited by Richard S. Van Wagoner [Salt Lake City: The Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2009], p. 469.)
A.—Joseph F. Smith stated that whenever “the priesthood may have been bestowed upon men tainted with this blood, in all such cases their ordinations must be regarded as invalid” (in Minutes of Meeting, 26 Aug. 1908, George Albert Smith Papers, Manuscripts Division, Marriott Library, University of Utah).
Q.—Do black people have any right to hold government office?
A.—“As to the men bearing rule, not one of the children of old Cain have one particle of right to bear rule in government affairs from first to last; they have no business there. This privilege was taken from them by their own transgressions, and I cannot help it. … I will not consent for one moment to have an African dictate me or any brethren with regard to church or state government. I may vary in my view from others, and they may think I am foolish in the things I have spoken and think that they know more than I do, but I know [that] I know more than they do. If the Africans cannot bear rule in the church of God, what business have they to bear rule in the state and government affairs of this territory or any others? In the government affairs of states and territories and kingdoms, by right God should govern. He should rule over nations and control kings. If we suffer the Devil to rule over us, we shall not accomplish any good. I want the Lord to rule and be our governor and dictator, and we are the boys to execute [it]. … I will not consent for a moment to have the children of Cain rule me nor my brethren. No, it is not right. But, say some, is there anything of this kind in the Constitution the U.S. has given us? If you will allow me the privilege [of] telling right out, it is none of their damned business what we do or say here. What we do it is for them to sanction, and then for us to say what we like about it. It is written right out in the Constitution, ‘that every free white male inhabitant above the age of twenty-one years,’ etc. My mind is the same today as when we were pouring over that constitution; any light upon the subject is the same, my judgment is the same, only a little more so. Perhaps I have said enough upon this subject. I have given you the true principles and doctrine. No man can vote for me or my brethren in this territory who has not the privilege of acting in church affairs. Every man and woman and child in this territory are citizens; to say the contrary is all nonsense to me. The Indians are citizens, the Africans are citizens, and the Jews that come from Asia, that are almost entirely of the blood of Cain. It is our duty to take care of them and administer to them in all the acts of humanity and kindness. They shall have the right of citizenship, but shall not have the right to dictate in church and state matters. The abolitionists of the East have caressed them and their whole argument is calculated to darken counsel as it was here yesterday. As for our bills passing here, we may lay the foundation for what? For men to come here from Africa or elsewhere by hundreds of thousands. When these men come here from the islands, are they going to hold offices in government? No. It is for men who understand the knowledge of government affairs to hold such offices, and on the other make provisions for them to plow and to reap and enjoy all that human beings can enjoy, and we protect them in it. Do we know how to ameliorate the condition of these people? We do. Suppose that five thousands of them come from the Pacific Islands and ten or fifteen thousands from Japan or from China. Not one of them would know how to vote for a government officer. They, therefore, ought not in the first thing have anything to do in government affairs.” (Brigham Young, 5 Jan. 1852, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, vol. 1 [1832–1852], edited by Richard S. Van Wagoner [Salt Lake City: The Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2009], pp. 469, 470; paragraphing omitted.)
“The African enjoys the right of receiving the first principles of the Gospel, this liberty is held out to all these servants, they enjoy the liberty of being baptized for the remission of sins, and of receiving the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands; they enjoy the privilege of living humble before the Lord their great master, so as to enjoy the spirit of the Lord continually; in short, as far as the common comforts of life, salvation, light, truth, enjoyment, and understanding is concerned, the black African has precisely the same privilege as the white man. But they cannot hold the Priesthood, and inasmuch as they cannot bear any share in the Priesthood, they cannot bear rule, they cannot bear rule in any place until the curse is removed from them, they are a ‘servant of servants.’ ” (Brigham Young, 23 Jan. 1852, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, vol. 1 [1832–1852], edited by Richard S. Van Wagoner [Salt Lake City: The Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2009], pp. 473–74.)
Q.—Is it really fair that black people should be denied certain blessings in this life simply because of the actions of their progenitor?
A.—According to Lorenzo Snow’s recollections, Brigham Young said that after Cain killed Abel, the spirits that were going to be born into Cain’s lineage “still looked up to him, and rather than forsake him they were willing to bear his burdens and share the penalty imposed upon him. This was understood when the curse was pronounced upon him.” (See Minutes of “Council Meeting,” 11 Mar. 1900, George Albert Smith Papers, Manuscripts Division, Marriott Library, University of Utah.)
Q.—Who are “the people of Canaan”?
A.—In an obvious reference to Africa and its inhabitants, Enoch “prophesied” that “the people of Canaan shall divide themselves in the land, and the land shall be barren and unfruitful, and none other people shall dwell there but the people of Canaan; for behold, the Lord shall curse the land with much heat, and the barrenness thereof shall go forth forever; and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people.” (Moses 7:7–8).
The people of Canaan apparently lived upon the earth even as early as Enoch’s lifetime. We read that “Enoch continued to call upon all the people, save it were the people of Canaan, to repent” (Moses 7:12). Who exactly were the people of Canaan, and why didn’t Enoch call upon them? As we previously read, “there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people” (Moses 7:8). We also read that “the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among [the rest of the seed of Adam]” (Moses 7:22). It would thus appear that Canaan and his people were either the seed of Cain, or they had mixed with the seed of Cain and had thereby brought upon themselves the same curse.
Q.—How did the curse continue through the flood during the days of Noah?
A.—Noah was accompanied by seven other passengers on the ark. Two of these passengers were Ham and his wife. Ham was the son of Noah. (See 1 Peter 3:20; also Genesis 7:7, 13.)
Ham’s wife was a descendant of Canaan. “Thus the blood of the Canaanites was preserved in the land,” and “thus, from Ham, sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land.” They were “cursed … as pertaining to the Priesthood,” because they were “of that lineage by which [they] could not have the right of Priesthood.” (Abraham 1:22, 24, 26, 27).
It would appear that not only was Ham’s wife a descendant of Canaan, but of Cain also. Hence John Taylor said that “after the flood the curse that had been pronounced upon Cain was continued through Ham’s wife, as he had married a wife of that seed” (28 Aug. 1881, “Discourse By President John Taylor,” reported by G. F. Gibbs, The Deseret News [weekly], vol. 30, no. 50, edited by Charles W. Penrose [Salt Lake City: Published by The Deseret News Company, 4 January 1882], p. 771; also “Discourse by President John Taylor,” reported by Geo. F. Gibbs, Journal of Discourses, vol. 22 [Liverpool: Published by Albert Carrington, 1882], p. 304).
Q.—Are modern-day black people descendants of Ham?
A.—Yes. Joseph Smith Jr. referred to “negroes” as the “descendants of Ham” and as the “sons of Ham.” (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, vol. 1, introduction and notes by B. H. Roberts [Salt Lake City, Utah: Published by the Church via Deseret News, 1902], p. 191; also April 1836, in Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, vol. 2, no. 7, edited by Oliver Cowdery [Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio: Published by F. G. Williams and Co., April 1836], p. 290.)
John Taylor also wrote of the “descendants of Ham” who are cursed with a “black skin” (1 Apr. 1845, “A Short Chapter on a Long Subject,” Times and Seasons, vol. 6, no. 6, edited by John Taylor [Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois: Published by John Taylor, 1 Apr. 1845], p. 857).
Brigham Young referred to them as the “children of Ham,” and as “the seed of Ham, which is the seed of Cain descending through Ham” (18 Feb. 1855, “Discourse,” Deseret News [weekly], vol. 4, no. 51, edited by Albert Carrington [Great Salt Lake City: 1 Mar. 1855], p. ; also in Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, reported by G. D. Watt [Liverpool: Published by F. D. Richards, 1855], pp. 172, 184).
As previously mentioned, Ham’s wife was a descendant of both Canaan and Cain. Modern-day black people are thus descendants of Ham, Canaan, and Cain.
Q.—Did Ham’s posterity receive any new curses in addition to the ones they inherited from Cain?
A.—“Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon that same race, that they should be the ‘servant of servants,’ and they will be until that curse is removed, and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree.” (Brigham Young, 9 Oct. 1859, “Remarks,” reported by G. D. Watt, The Deseret News [weekly], vol. 9, no. 34, edited by Elias Smith [Great Salt Lake City: Published by Elias Smith, 26 Oct. 1859], p. 266; also “Intelligence, etc.,” reported by G. D. Watt, Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, edited by Amasa Lyman [Liverpool: Published by Amasa Lyman, 1860], p. 290.)
After the flood, Ham had a son named “Canaan” (see Genesis 9:18), who may have been named after the previously mentioned ancestor of Ham’s wife. “After Ham had dishonored the holy priesthood” (John Taylor, 1 Apr. 1845, “A Short Chapter on a Long Subject,” Times and Seasons, vol. 6, no. 6, edited by John Taylor [Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois: Published by John Taylor, 1 Apr. 1845], p. 857), Noah cursed Ham by cursing his son, Canaan, saying, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren” (Genesis 9:25).
Joseph Smith Jr. said: “I do not doubt, but those who have been forward in raising their voices against the South, will cry out against me as being uncharitable, unfeeling, unkind—wholly unacquainted with the gospel of Christ. It is my privilege then to name certain passages from the Bible, and examine the teachings of the ancients upon the matter as the fact is uncontrovertible, that the first mention we have of slavery is found in the holy bible, pronounced by a man who was perfect in his generation, and walked with God. And so far from that prediction being averse to the mind of God, it remains as a lasting monument of the decree of Jehovah, to the shame and confusion of all who have cried out against the South, in consequence of their holding the sons of Ham in servitude! ‘And he said cursed be Canaan: a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem: and Canaan shall be his servant.—God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem: and Canaan shall be his servant.’ (Gen. 9:25–27.) Trace the history of the world from this notable event down to this day, and you will find the fulfillment of this singular prophecy.” (Apr. 1836, in Latter-day Saint’s Messenger and Advocate, vol. 2, no. 7, edited by Oliver Cowdery [Kirtland, Ohio: Published by F. G. Williams & Co., Apr. 1836], p. 290; paragraphing omitted.)
Commenting upon these same verses, John Taylor said: “History and common observation show that these predictions have been fulfilled to the letter. The descendants of Ham, besides a black skin which has ever been a curse that has followed an apostate of the holy priesthood, as well as a black heart, have been servants to both Shem and Japheth, and the abolitionists are trying to make void the curse of God, but it will require more power than man possesses to counteract the decrees of eternal wisdom.” (1 Apr. 1845, “A Short Chapter on a Long Subject,” Times and Seasons, vol. 6, no. 6, edited by John Taylor [Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois: Published by John Taylor, 1 Apr. 1845], p. 857.)
In answer to the question, “Are the Moromons abolitionists?” the Prophet Joseph Smith replied, “No. … We do not believe in setting the Negroes free” (July 1838, Elders’ Journal of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, vol. 1, no. 3, edited by Joseph Smith Jr. [Far West, Missouri: Published by Thomas B. Marsh, July 1838], p. 43).
Commenting upon the rumor that Mormons “were agoing to tamper with the slaves,” Brigham Young said that “we had never thought of such a thing. The seed of Ham, which is the seed of Cain descending through Ham, will, according to the curse put upon him, serve his brethren, and be a ‘servant of servants’ to his fellow-creatures, until God removes the curse; and no power can hinder it. These are my views upon slavery.” (18 Feb. 1855, “Discourse,” reported by G. D. Watt, Deseret News [weekly], vol. 4, no. 51, edited by Albert Carrington [Great Salt Lake City: 1 Mar. 1855], p. ; also in Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, reported by G. D. Watt [Liverpool: Published by F. D. Richards, 1855], p. 184.)
“In our first settlement in Missouri, it was said by our enemies that we intended to tamper with the slaves, not that we had any idea of the kind, for such a thing never entered our minds. We knew that the children of Ham were to be the ‘servant of servants,’ and no power under heaven could hinder it, so long as the Lord should permit them to welter under the curse, and those were known to be our religious views concerning them.” (Brigham Young, 18 Feb. 1855, “Discourse,” Deseret News [weekly], vol. 4, no. 51, edited by Albert Carrington [Great Salt Lake City: 1 Mar. 1855], p. ; also in Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, reported by G. D. Watt [Liverpool: Published by F. D. Richards, 1855], p. 172.)
When asked in an interview, “What is the position of your Church with respect to Slavery?” Brigham Young responsed that “we consider it of Divine institution, and not to be abolished until the curse pronounced on Ham shall have been removed from his descendants.” (13 July 1859, “An Overland Journey: Two Hours with Brigham Young,” New-York [Daily] Tribune, vol. 19, no. 5718 [New-York: Published by Horace Greeley & Co., 20 Aug. 1859], p. 5.)
Before the Utah Legislature, Brigham Young expounded upon this belief: “I will remark with regard to Slavery, inasmuch as we believe in the Bible, inasmuch as we believe in the Ordinances of God, in the Priesthood and order and decrees of God, we must believe in Slavery. This colored race have been subjected to severe curses, which they have in their families and their classes and in their various capacities brought upon themselves. And until the curse is removed by Him who placed it upon them, they must suffer under its consequences; I am not authorized to remove it. I am a firm believer in Slavery. … Suppose that we should have a servant, and he should be a Negro, it is all right, it is perfectly reasonable, and strictly according to the Holy Priesthood. … I know it is right, and there should be a law made to have the slaves serve their masters, because they are not capable of ruling themselves. … I am firm in the belief that they ought to dwell in servitude.” (23 Jan. 1852, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, vol. 1 [1832–1852], edited by Richard S. Van Wagoner [Salt Lake City: The Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2009], pp. 473, 474.)
Q.—What is the correct way to practice the principle of slavery?
“In the present acceptation or usage of the term [‘slavery’], it is abused. I am opposed to abusing that which God has decreed, to take a blessing, and make a curse of it. It is a great blessing to the seed of Adam to have the seed of Cain for servants, but those they serve should use them with all the heart and feeling, as they would use their own children, and their compassion should reach over them and round about them, and treat them as kindly, and with that humane feeling necessary to be shown to mortal beings of the human species.” (Brigham Young, 5 Jan. 1852, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, vol. 1 [1832–1852], edited by Richard S. Van Wagoner [Salt Lake City: The Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2009], p. 469.)
In a message to the Utah Legislature, Brigham Young said: “It is unnecessary perhaps for me to indicate the true policy for Utah in regard to slavery. Restrictions of law and government make all servants; but human flesh to be dealt in as property, is not consistent or compatible with the true principles of government. My own feelings are that no property can or should be recognized as existing in slaves, either Indian or African.”
Brigham Young said that if men will begin to treat the slaves properly, then “shall the condition of the poor, forlorn, destitute, ignorant savage, or African, as the case may be, become ameliorated, and a foundation laid for their advancement in the scale of useful, exalting existence—useful to themselves, to their nations, and all who shall come within the purview of their influence. … The seed of Canaan will inevitably carry the curse which was placed upon them, until the same authority which placed it there, shall see proper to have it removed. Service is necessary; it is honorable; it exists in all countries and has existed in all ages; it probably will exist in some form in all time to come. … Thus, while servitude may and should exist, and that too upon those who are naturally designed to occupy the position of ‘servant of servants,’ yet we should not fall into the other extreme and make them as beasts of the field, regarding not the humanity which attaches to the colored race; nor yet elevate them, as some seem disposed, to an equality with those who Nature and Nature’s God has indicated to be their masters, their superiors.” (Brigham Young, 5 Jan. 1852, “Governor’s Message,” Deseret News [weekly], vol. 2, no. 5, edited by W. Richards [Great Salt Lake City, U.T.: Printed by W. Richards, 10 Jan. 1852], p. .)
“I loathe the abuses to which the slave in a great many instances is exposed. … I would like masters to behave well to their servants, and to see that every person in this Territory is well used. When a master has a Negro, and uses him well, he is much better off than if he was free. As for masters knocking them down and whipping them and breaking the limbs of their servants, I have as little opinion of that as any person can have, but good wholesome servitude, I know there is nothing better than that.” (Brigham Young, 23 Jan. 1852, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, vol. 1 [1832–1852], edited by Richard S. Van Wagoner [Salt Lake City: The Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2009], p. 474.)
Q.—Is it permissible to interacially marry black people?
A.—“Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, … thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites.” (Genesis 24:2–3.)
“Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.” (Genesis 28:1.)
In regard to the Israelites marrying the descendants of Canaan, Moses said: “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son” (Deuteronomy 7:3).
“Had I anything to do with the negro, I would confine them by strict law to their own species.” (Joseph Smith Jr., 2 Jan. 1843, “History of Joseph Smith,” The Deseret News [weekly], vol. 5, no. 52, edited by Albert Carrington [Great Salt Lake City: 5 Mar. 1856], p. 409; also History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, vol. 5, introduction and notes by B. H. Roberts [Salt Lake City, Utah: Published by the Church via Deseret News, 1909], pp. 217–18.)
“The notion of amalgamation is devilish!—And insensible to feeling must be the heart, and low indeed must be the mind, that would consent for a moment, to see his fair daughter, his sister, or perhaps, his bosom companion, in the embrace of a negro!” (Oliver Cowdery, Apr. 1836, “The Abolitionists,” Latter-day Saint’s Messenger and Advocate, vol. 2, no. 7, edited by Oliver Cowdery [Kirtland, Ohio: Published by F. G. Williams & Co., Apr. 1836], p. 300.)
“Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” (Brigham Young, 8 Mar. 1863, “Remarks,” reported by G. D. Watt, The Deseret News [weekly], vol. 12, no. 38, edited by Elias Smith [Great Salt Lake City: Published by Elias Smith, 18 Mar. 1863], p. 298; also in Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, reported by G. D. Watt and J. V. Long [Liverpool: Published by Daniel H. Wells, 1865], p. 110.)
“Let my seed mingle with the seed of Cain, and that brings the curse upon me and upon my generations; we will reap the same rewards with Cain. In the Priesthood I will tell you what it will do. Were the children of God to mingle their seed with the seed of Cain it would not only bring the curse of being deprived of the power of the priesthood upon themselves but they entail it upon their children after them, and they cannot get rid of it. If a man in an unguarded moment should commit such a transgression, if he would walk up and say cut off my head, and kill man, woman and child it would do a great deal towards atoning for the sin. Would this be to curse them? No, it would be a blessing to them; it would do them good that they might be saved with their brethren. A man would shudder should they hear us talk about killing folk, but it is one of the greatest blessings to some to kill them, although the true principles of it are not understood. … We know there is a portion of inhabitants of the earth who dwell in Asia that are Negroes and said to be Jews. The blood of Judah has not only mingled almost with all nations, but also with the blood of Cain, and they have mingled their seeds together. These Negro Jews may keep up all the outer ordinances of the Jewish religion, they may have their sacrifices, and they may perform all the religious ceremonies any people on earth could perform, but let me tell you, that the day they consented to mingle their seed with Canaan, the Priesthood was taken away from Judah, and that portion of Judah’s seed will never get any rule or blessings of the Priesthood until Cain gets it.” (Brigham Young, 5 Jan. 1852, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, vol. 1 [1832–1852], edited by Richard S. Van Wagoner [Salt Lake City: The Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2009], pp. 469–70; paragraphing omitted.)
Q.—When will the curse upon the seed of Cain be removed?
A.—“How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? 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. Until the last one of the residue of Adam’s children are brought up to that favorable position, the children of Cain cannot receive the first ordinances of the Priesthood. They were the first that were cursed, and they will be the last from whom the curse will be removed. When the residue of the family of Adam come up and receive their blessings, then the curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will receive blessings in like proportion.” (Brigham Young, 9 Oct. 1859, “Remarks,” reported by G. D. Watt, The Deseret News [weekly], vol. 9, no. 34, edited by Elias Smith [Great Salt Lake City: Published by Elias Smith, 26 Oct. 1859], p. 266; also “Intelligence, Etc.,” reported by G. D. Watt, Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, edited by Amasa Lyman [Liverpool: Published by Amasa Lyman, 1860], pp. 290–91.)
“Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the Holy Priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the Holy Priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.” (Brigham Young, 19 Aug. 1866, “Remarks,” reported by G. D. Watt, The Deseret News [weekly], vol. 15, no. 45, edited by Albert Carrington [Great Salt Lake City: 10 Oct. 1866], p. 355; also in Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, reported by G. D. Watt, E. L. Sloan, and D. W. Evans [Liverpool: Published by B. Young, Jun., 1867], p. 272.)
When Brigham Young uses the term “come up,” as in the two previous quotations, he is usually referring to being resurrected. More than once, for example, Brigham Young used the explicit phrase “come up in the resurrection.” (3 Oct. 1852, “Discourse,” Deseret News [weekly], vol. 4, no. 13 [Great Salt Lake City, U. T.: 11 May 1854], p. .) After searching through Brigham Young’s discourses for only a couple of minutes, I was able to find ten examples of where he used the term “come up” in the context of being resurrected.
In this quotation, Brigham Young explicitly mentions the resurrection: “When all the other children of Adam have had the privilege of receiving the priesthood, and of coming into the kingdom of God, and of being redeemed from the four quarters of the earth, and have received their resurrection from the dead, then it will be time enough to remove the curse from Cain and his posterity. He deprived his brother of the privilege of pursuing his journey through life, and of extending his kingdom by multiplying upon the earth; and because he did this, he is the last to share the joys of the kingdom of God.” (Brigham Young, 3 Dec. 1854, “Discourse,” Deseret News [weekly], vol. 4, no. 48, edited by Albert Carrington [Great Salt Lake City: 8 Feb. 1855], p. ; also in Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, reported by G. D. Watt [Liverpool: Published by F. D. Richards, 1855], p. 143.)
When will the resurrection of the dead be completed? The Savior speaks of the time when He will “dwell in righteousness with men on earth a thousand years”; and “when the thousand years are ended,” “before the earth shall pass away, Michael, mine archangel, shall sound his trump, and then shall all the dead awake, for their graves shall be opened, and they shall come forth—yea, even all.” (D&C 29:11, 22, 26.) Joseph Fielding Smith said that “after the millennium … the earth will die and receive its resurrection. … The resurrection of the wicked will take place as one of the last events before the earth dies.” (Doctrines of Salvation, compiled by Bruce R. McConkie, vol. 1 [Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, ©1954], p. 87.)
“When the mark was put upon Cain, Abel’s children were in all probability young; the Lord told Cain that he should not receive the blessings of the Priesthood, nor his seed, until the last of the posterity of Abel had received the Priesthood, until the redemption of the earth. … I know that they cannot bear rule in the Priesthood, for the curse on them was to remain upon them until the residue of the posterity of Michael and his wife receive the blessings, the seed of Cain would have received had they not been cursed, and hold the keys of the Priesthood until the times of the restitution shall come, and the curse be wiped off from the earth and from Michael’s seed. Then Cain’s seed will be had in remembrance and the time come when the curse should be wiped off.” (Brigham Young, 5 Jan. 1852, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, vol. 1 [1832–1852], edited by Richard S. Van Wagoner [Salt Lake City: The Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2009], p. 468.)
As quoted above, Brigham Young spoke of the seed of Cain not receiving the Priesthood until “the redemption of the earth.” When will the earth be redeemed? Orson Pratt said that “after the seventh millennium has passed away,” then the “final transformation of this earth” would take place; in other words, the earth “will be redeemed, or, we might say resurrected.” (20 Aug. 1871, “Discourse by Elder Orson Pratt,” reported by David W. Evans, Journal of Discourses, vol. 14 [Liverpool: Published by Albert Carrington, 1872], pp. 235, 236.)
Q.—Have God’s people ever mixed with the seed of Cain in the past?
A.—In the Book of Ezra, we read that “the people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass. … O our God, what shall we say after this? for we have forsaken thy commandments, which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying, The land, unto which ye go to possess it, is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness. Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons. … And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this; should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping? O Lord God of Israel, thou art righteous: for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold, we are before thee in our trespasses: for we cannot stand before thee because of this.” (Ezra 9:1–2, 10–12, 13–15.)
What was done about this? “Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore. And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it. Then arose Ezra, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel, to swear that they should do according to this word. And they sware. … Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together unto Jerusalem. … And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel. Now therefore make confession unto the Lord God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives. Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do.” (Ezra 10:1–5, 9, 10–12.)
In the verses quoted above, at least these abominations were not officially sanctioned by the Priesthood; the people were humble enough to acknowledge that they were in error, and did what was necessary to fix the problem. If such were not the case, it is reasonable to expect that their standing with the Lord would have been much different.
Q.—What will happen to those who oppose the Lord’s decrees concerning the curse that is upon the seed of Cain?
A.—“The curse is not yet taken off from the sons of Canaan, neither will be until it is affected by as great a power as caused it to come; and the people who interfere the least with the purposes of God in this matter, will come under the least condemnation before Him; and those who are determined to pursue a course, which shows an opposition, and a feverish restlessness against the decrees of the Lord, will learn, when perhaps it is too late for their own good, that God can do His own work, without the aid of those who are not dictated by His counsel.” (Joseph Smith Jr., Apr. 1836, in Latter-day Saint’s Messenger and Advocate, vol. 2, no. 7, edited by Oliver Cowdery [Kirtland, Ohio: Published by F. G. Williams & Co., Apr. 1836], p. 290.)
Q.—What would happen if the Church officially began sanctioning interracial marriages with the seed of Cain, and officially began offering full privileges to it’s black members, before the curse has been lifted?
A.—“Let this church which is called the Kingdom of God on the earth: we will summons the First Presidency, the Twelve, the High Counsel, the Bishopric, and all the Elders of Israel, suppose we summons them to appear here, and here declare that it is right to mingle our seed with the Black race of Cain, that they shall come in with us and be partakers with us of all the blessings God has given to us. On that very day, and hour we should do so, the priesthood is taken from this church and kingdom and God leaves us to our fate. The moment we consent to mingle with the seed of Cain, the Church must go to destruction; we should receive the curse which has been placed upon the seed of Cain, and never more be numbered with the children of Adam who are heirs to the priesthood until that curse be removed. … What we are trying to do today is to make the Negro equal with us in all our privilege. My voice shall be against [it] all the day long. … I will not consent for one moment for you to lay a plan to bring a curse upon this people. It shall not be while I am here.” (Brigham Young, 5 Jan. 1852, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, vol. 1 [1832–1852], edited by Richard S. Van Wagoner [Salt Lake City: The Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2009], pp. 470, 471.)
Q.—Are the leaders of the Church aware that their 1978 decision contradicts what has been said by previous Church leaders?
A.—In their official statement, the First Presidency said that they were “aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood.” They mention this in an attempt to justify their decision, probably hoping at the same time that people would be ignorant of the fact that while these “promises” do indicate that at some future time the blacks would receive the Priesthood, they also indicate that this time would not be until after the Millennium. In other words, the very “promises” they mention actually contradict their decision rather than validate it.
Bruce R. McConkie asserted that this policy-change “is one of the signs of the times. It is something that had to occur before the Second Coming.” (“The New Revelation on Priesthood,” Priesthood [Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1981], p. 136.)
In an interview with Wesley P. Walters and Chris Vlachos at the Church Office Building, Elder LeGrand Richards of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles denied the fact that past Church leaders had ever revealed the specific time when blacks would receive the Priesthood. He also seemed to suggest that there never has been any legitimate reason to deny black people the Priesthood so long as they are living righteously:
Wesley P. Walters: “Now, with this new revelation—has it brought any new insights or new ways of looking at the Book of Abraham? Because I think traditionally it is thought of the curse of Cain, coming through Canaanites and on the black-skinned people, and therefore denying the priesthood?”
LeGrand Richards: “We considered that with all the ‘for’s’ and the ‘against’s’ and decided that with all of that, if they lived their lives, and did the work, that they were entitled to their blessings.”
Wesley P. Walters: “But you haven’t come up with any new understanding of the Book of Abraham? I just wondered whether there would be a shift in that direction. Is the recent revelation in harmony with what the past prophets have taught, of when the Negro would receive the priesthood?”
LeGrand Richards: “Well, they have held out the thought that they would ultimately get the priesthood, but they never determined the time for it. And so when this situation that we face down there in Brazil—Brother Kimball worried a lot about it—how the people are so faithful and devoted. The president of the Relief Society of the stake is a colored woman down there in one of the stakes. If they do the work, why it seems like that the justice of the Lord would approve of giving them the blessing. Now it’s all conditional upon the life that they live, isn’t it?” (16 Aug. 1978; copy of transcript in possession of author of website.)
Hugh B. Brown, First Counselor in the First Presidency, had previously indicated in 1969 that he knew of no scriptural justification for denying blacks the Priesthood in the first place: “Personally I doubt if we can maintain or sustain ourselves in the position which we seem to have adopted but which has no justification as far as the scriptures are concerned so far as I know. I think we are going to have to change our decision on that. The President says that it can come only by revelation. If that be true then it will come in due course. I think it is one of the most serious problems confronting us because of course it affects the millions of colored people.” (D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power [Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, ©1997], pp. 13–14.)
During one of President Gordon B. Hinckley’s many television interviews, he was asked why “from 1830 to 1978, blacks could not become priests in the Mormon church.” President Hinckley responded, “Because the leaders of the church at that time interpreted that doctrine that way.” No mention is made of God having anything to do with it. (Interview with Mike Wallace on the 60 Minutes television program, broadcast 7 April 1996, on the CBS television network.) When asked the same question on a different occasion, President Hinckley said, “I don’t know what the reason was.” (Interview on the Australian Broadcasting Company’s Compass television program, 8 April 2005.) Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, told his PBS interviewer that “we simply do not know why that practice, that policy, that doctrine was in place.” (4 Mar. 2006, http://www.pbs.org/mormons/interviews/holland.html.)
Some people believed that witholding the Priesthood from black members was entirely motivated by arrogance and racism, rather than it being a policy of divine origin. When an interviewer brought up to Gordon B. Hinckley the fact that “until 1978 no person of color attained the priesthood in your church,” and then asked “why it took so long time to overcome the racism?” President Hinckley simply responsed, “I don’t know. I don’t know. [long pause] I can only say that. [long pause] But it’s here now. We’re carrying on a very substantial work on Africa for instance and in Brazil. We’re working among their people developing them.” (Interview with Helmut Nemetschek, ZDF, 29 Jan. 2002.)
At the April 2006 General Conference, President Hinckley said: “Racial strife still lifts its ugly head. I am advised that even right here among us there is some of this. I cannot understand how it can be. It seemed to me that we all rejoiced in the 1978 revelation given President Kimball. … How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color is ineligible? … Brethren, there is no basis for racial hatred among the priesthood of this Church.” (1 Apr. 2006, “The Need for Greater Kindness,” Ensign, vol. 36, no. 5, edited by Jay E. Jensen [Salt Lake City, Utah: Published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, May 2006], p. 58.)
Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles admitted that the 1978 decision was in contradiction to statements made by previous Church leaders, but thought that people who were troubled by these contradictions needed to repent and should simply ignore them: “There are statements in our literature by the early brethren that we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, ‘You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?’ And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whosoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world. We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more. It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June 1978. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them. We now do what meridian Israel did when the Lord said the gospel should go to the gentiles. We forget all the statements that limited the gospel to the house of Israel, and we start going to the gentiles.” (“The New Revelation on Priesthood,” Priesthood [Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1981], pp. 131–32; paragraphing omitted.)
Bruce R. McConkie wants us to reject everything from the past that contradicts this new “revelation;” yet, Joseph Smith tells us that we can know something is fraudulent by it “contradicting a former revelation.” (“Try the Spirits,” Times and Seasons, vol. 3, no. 11, edited by Joseph Smith [Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois: Published by Joseph Smith, 1 Apr. 1842], p. 747.)
Did Spencer W. Kimball contradict a former revelation? How did Brigham Young know when the blacks would receive the Priesthood? Did he receive a revelation? Did he hear it from Joseph Smith?
One thing people seem to think they do know for sure is that Spencer W. Kimball did receive a revelation; and since a revelation carries more weight than mere statements mentioned over the pulpit, we are justified in accepting Spencer W. Kimball’s words and rejecting Brigham Young’s. These conclusions, however, are based upon incorrect assumptions, which I will now attempt to prove.
Q.—If Spencer W. Kimball did in fact receive a revelation, then where is it? Has anyone seen it or read it?
A.—On 30 Sept. 1978, at the 148th Semiannual General Conference of the Church, President N. Eldon Tanner, First Counselor in the First Presidency, made the following statement: “In early June of this year, the First Presidency announced that a revelation had been received by President Spencer W. Kimball extending priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church. President Kimball has asked that I advise the conference that after he had received this revelation, which came to him after extended meditation and prayer in the sacred rooms of the holy temple, he presented it to his counselors, who accepted it and approved it. It was then presented to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who unanimously approved it, and was subsequently presented to all other General Authorities, who likewise approved it unanimously.”
President Tanner then read to the conference the announcement that was previously sent to Church officers throughout the world, and which was subsequently published in the Church News, wherein the First Presidency stated that “[the Lord] 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, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows therefrom, including the blessings of the temple.”
President Tanner then said: “Recognizing Spencer W. Kimball as the prophet, seer, and revelator, and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is proposed that we as a constituent assembly accept this revelation as the word and will of the Lord. All in favor please signify by raising your right hand. Any opposed by the same sign.” According to the report, “The vote to sustain the foregoing motion was unanimous in the affirmative.” (See “Official Declaration—2,” The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A.: Published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981], pp. 293–94.)
According to the above, this “revelation” was presented to all of the General Authorities prior to the Conference. At least they got to see it, right? But instead of presenting the actual revelation to the General Conference, President Tanner only read the announcement about the revelation. Why isn’t the general membership of the Church as privileged as the General Authorities? This is the first time in the history of the Church where the conference was expected to accept and sustain a revelation by vote without being allowed to actually read or hear the revelation for themselves. This is the first clue that something is not right.
Q.—What kind of revelation did Spencer W. Kimball receive in 1978?
A.—Orson Pratt said that “whenever God has called and authorized men to perform a work in any age or dispensation, it has been done by revelations, and not by mere impressions, or some undefinable internal feelings, which leave the mind in uncertainty and doubt.” (1 Nov. 1850, Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, no. 2 [Liverpool: Printed by R. James], p. 17.)
The kind of revelation that leaves no room for uncertainty or doubt is the kind where the Lord speaks in the first person. These are usually written down, and sometimes contain the words “thus saith the Lord” or something similar. This is the kind of revelation the Lord usually gives when the subject in question is of major importance.
It is obvious from the way in which they worded their public statements on the subject that Spencer W. Kimball and his associates wanted the general membership of the Church to think that this was the type of revelation he received—a verbal first-person message directly from the Lord.
The brethren did not, however, hide from the real truth when specifically questioned about it. They were honest about the fact that this was not the type of revelation President Kimball received. Perhaps they supposed there was no harm in being honest about it on certain occasions, because most of the membership of the Church had already automatically assumed that President Kimball had written down an actual first-person revelation from the Lord, and to this day most members have never questioned it.
Remember that President N. Eldon Tanner told the members of the Church that “President Kimball has asked that I advise the conference that after he had received this revelation, which came to him after extended meditation and prayer in the sacred rooms of the holy temple, he presented it to his counselors, who accepted it and approved it. It was then presented to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who unanimously approved it, and was subsequently presented to all other General Authorities, who likewise approved it unanimously.”
This statement appears to be contradicted by what Elder LeGrand Richards of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told Wesley P. Walters and Chris Vlachos during an interview at the Church Office Building. According to Elder Richards, it was not the revelation that was presented to the General Authorties, but only the announcement about the revelation:
Wesley P. Walters: “On this revelation, of the priesthood to the Negro, I’ve heard all kinds of stories: I’ve heard that Joseph Smith appeared; and then I heard another story that Spencer Kimball had, had a concern about this for some time, and simply shared it with the apostles, and they decided that this was the right time to move in that direction. Are any of those stories true, or are they all?”
LeGrand Richards: “Well, the last one is pretty true, and I might tell you what provoked it in a way. Down in Brazil, there is so much Negro blood in the population there that it’s hard to get leaders that don’t have Negro blood in them. We just built a temple down there. It’s going to be dedicated in October. All those people with Negro blood in them have been raising the money to build that temple. If we don’t change, then they can’t even use it. Well, Brother Kimball worried about it, and he prayed a lot about it. He asked each one of us of the Twelve if we would pray—and we did—that the Lord would give him the inspiration to know what the will of the Lord was. Then he invited each one of us in his office—individually, because you know when you are in a group, you can’t always express everything that’s in your heart. You’re part of the group, you see—so he interviewed each one of us, personally, to see how we felt about it, and he asked us to pray about it. Then he asked each one of us to hand in all the references we had, for, or against that proposal. See, he was thinking favorably toward giving the colored people the priesthood. Then we had a meeting where we meet every week in the temple, and we discussed it as a group together, and then we prayed about it in our prayer circle, and then we held another prayer circle after the close of that meeting, and he (President Kimball) lead in the prayer; praying that the Lord would give us the inspiration that we needed to do the thing that would be pleasing to Him and for the blessing of His children. And then the next Thursday—we meet every Thursday—the Presidency came with this little document written out to make the announcement—to see how we’d feel about it – and present it in written form. Well, some of the members of the Twelve suggested a few changes in the announcement, and then in our meeting there we all voted in favor of it—the Twelve and the Presidency. One member of the Twelve, Mark Petersen, was down in South America, but Brother Benson, our President, had arranged to know where he could be reached by phone, and right while we were in that meeting in the temple, Brother Kimball talked with Brother Petersen, and read him this article, and he (Petersen) approved of it. … And then after we all voted in favor of it, we called another meeting for the next morning, Friday morning, at seven o’clock, of all the other General Authorities—that includes the Seventies’ Quorum and the Patriarch and the Presiding Bishopric, and it was presented to them, and there were a few of the brethren that were out presiding then in the missions, and so the Twelve were appointed to interview each one of them.”
Not only does Elder Richards tell us that it was only the announcement, and not the revelation, that was presented to the General Authorities, but he also tells us that this announcement was the “revelation”:
Wesley P. Walters: “Now when President Kimball read this little announcement or paper, was that the same thing that was released to the press?”
LeGrand Richards: “Yes.”
Wesley P. Walters: “There wasn’t a special document as a ‘revelation,’ that he had and wrote down?”
LeGrand Richards: “We discussed it in our meeting. What else should we say besides that announcement? And we decided that was sufficient; that no more needed to be said.”
Wesley P. Walters: “Was that the letter you sent out to the various wards?”
LeGrand Richards: “And to the Church; and to the newspapers, yes.”
Chris Vlachos: “Will that become a part of ‘scripture’?”
LeGrand Richards: “Yes, I’ve already thought in my own mind of suggesting we add it to the Pearl of Great Price, just like those last two revelations that we’ve just added.” (16 Aug. 1978; copy of transcript in possession of author of website.)
Although the brethren (specifically Spencer W. Kimball, and N. Eldon Tanner in General Conference) referred to this announcement as the “revelation,” the announcement does make reference to a revelation that is separate from the announcement itself, upon which the decision and announcement were apparently based. What do we know about this other separate “revelation”? Was it a verbal first-person message from the Lord, or was it merely a good feeling that convinced the brethren that what they had already wanted to do was the right thing?
The website MormonThink.com provides us with this interesting account: “Although we don’t normally quote from unverified sources, we decided to add this account from someone we know that worked in the administrative staff at the MTC during the time of the announcement: We were told, by visiting General Authorities and others from the Church Office Building, that it was not a revelation, but a ‘negative revelation.’ That is, the First Presidency and the Twelve decided to tell the Lord that they were going to change the policy regarding blacks and the LDS priesthood ‘unless He gave them a sign to the contrary.’ In the absence of any sign, they changed the policy. No one officially coming over from SLC to the MTC at the time denied this story. It was later that I heard the word ‘revelation’ actually used in conjunction with it.” (http://mormonthink.com/blackweb.htm.)
That the brethren do in fact believe in the legitimacy of what was referred to above as “negative revelation” is confirmed by Joel Skousen: “In the absence of direct revelation the Brethren work on the assumption that whatever they feel good about is the will of the Lord unless he corrects them. Pres. [Harold B.] Lee told that very thing to my uncle Cleon [Skousen].” (5 May 2010, 9:29 p.m., private e-mail correspondence.)
Spencer W. Kimball said that during his “meeting [with] the Council of the Twelve in the temple” where “this revelation and assurance” was allegedly received, he had “offered the final prayer,” in which he “told the Lord if it wasn’t right, if he didn’t want this change to come in the Church that I would be true to it all the rest of my life, and I’d fight the world against it if that’s what He wanted.” (“‘News’ interviews prophet,” Church News, vol. 49, no. 1 [Salt Lake City, Utah: Published by The Deseret News, 6 Jan. 1979], p. 4.) This seems to confirm what has been said by some of the other brethren, which is that Spencer W. Kimball and his associates were attempting to implement their own personal desires.
This fact is also confirmed by the statement of the First Presidency in their announcement: “As we have witnessed the expansion of the work of the Lord over the earth, we have been grateful that people of many nations have responded to the message of the restored gospel, and have joined the Church in ever-increasing numbers. This, in turn, has inspired us with a desire to extend to every worthy member of the Church all of the privileges and blessings which the gospel affords.” (“Official Declaration—2,” The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A.: Published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981], p. 294.)
The bretheren, however, claim it was much more than a “negative revelation.” While they do admit that the policy-change was in accord with their own previously-existing desires, they also claim that the Lord confirmed to them through a powerful manifestation of the Holy Ghost that what they desired was right, and that it was the will of the Lord.
As I quoted earlier, LeGrand Richards tells us that Spencer W. Kimball was already “thinking favorably toward giving the colored people the priesthood.” (16 Aug. 1978; copy of transcript in possession of author of website.) Gordon B. Hinckley tells us that “President Kimball was bold in petitioning the Lord for this revelation. He wrestled over it. He worked at it. He went to the Lord again and again.” (9 Aug. 1995, in Sheri L. Dew, Go Forward With Faith: The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley [Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, ©1996], p. 362.)
Bruce R. McConkie explains what happened: “Obviously, the Brethren have had a great anxiety and concern about this problem for a long period of time, and President Spencer W. Kimball has been exercised and has sought the Lord in faith. When we seek the Lord on a matter, with sufficient faith and devotion, he gives us an answer. … One underlying reason for what happened to us is that the Brethren asked in faith; they petitioned and desired and wanted an answer—President Kimball in particular. … On the first day of June 1978, the
First Presidency and the Twelve, after full discussion of the proposition and all the premises and principles that are involved, importuned the Lord for a revelation. President Kimball was mouth, and he prayed with great faith and great fervor. … When President Kimball finished his prayer, the Lord gave a revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost. … On this occasion, because of the importuning and the faith, and because the hour and the time had arrived, the Lord in his providences poured out the Holy Ghost upon the First Presidency and the Twelve in a miraculous and marvelous manner, beyond anything that any then present had ever experienced. The revelation came to the President of the Church; it also came to each individual present. There were ten members of the Council of the Twelve and three of the First Presidency there assembled. The result was that President Kimball knew, and each one of us knew, independent of any other person, by direct and personal revelation to us, that the time had now come to extend the gospel and all its blessings and all its obligations, including the priesthood and the blessings of the house of the Lord, to those of every nation, culture, and race, including the black race. There was no question whatsoever as to what happened or as to the word and message that came. … This revelation that came on the first day of June 1978 was reaffirmed by the spirit of inspiration one week later on June 8, when the Brethren approved the document that was to be announced to the world. And then it was reaffirmed the next day, on Friday, June 9, with all of the General Authorities present in the temple, that is, all who were available. All received the assurance and witness and confirmation by the power of the Spirit that what had occurred was the mind, the will, the intent, and the purpose of the Lord.” (“The New Revelation on Priesthood,” Priesthood [Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1981], pp. 132, 133–34, 136; paragraphing omitted.)
Apparently rumors were spreading about miraculous occurences during these revelatory experiences. Bruce R. McConkie set the record straight: “Once again a revelation was given. … The Lord could have sent messengers from the other side to deliver it, but he did not. He gave the revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost. Latter-day Saints have a complex: many of them desire to magnify and build upon what has occurred, and they delight to think of miraculous things. And maybe some of them would like to believe that the Lord himself was there, or that the Prophet Joseph Smith came to deliver the revelation, which was one of the possibilities. Well, these things did not happen. The stories that go around to the contrary are not factual or realistic or true, and you as teachers in the Church Educational System will be in a position to explain and to tell your students that this thing came by the power of the Holy Ghost.” (“The New Revelation on Priesthood,” Priesthood [Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1981], p. 135.)
Elder McConkie does indicate, however, that the brethren who were present when the revelation was received did in fact hear a voice : “The Spirit of the Lord rested mightily upon us all; we felt something akin to what happened on the day of Pentecost and at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. From the midst of eternity, the voice of God, conveyed by the power of the Spirit, spoke to his prophet. The message was that the time had now come to offer the fulness of the everlasting gospel, including celestial marriage, and the priesthood, and the blessings of the temple, to all men, without reference to race or color, solely on the basis of personal worthiness. And we all heard the same voice, received the same message, and became personal witnesses that the word received was the mind and will and voice of the Lord. President Kimball’s prayer was answered and our prayers were answered. He heard the voice and we heard the same voice. All doubt and uncertainty fled. He knew the answer and we knew the answer. And we are all living witnesses of the truthfulness of the word so graciously sent from heaven.” (“The New Revelation on Priesthood,” Priesthood [Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1981], p. 128; paragraphing omitted.)
Apparently, this voice was heard in their minds through the Spirit, and not with their ears. Gordon B. Hinckley explains: “There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room. For me, it felt as if a conduit opened between the heavenly throne and the kneeling, pleading prophet of God who was joined by his Brethren. The Spirit of God was there. And by the power of the Holy Ghost there came to that prophet an assurance that the thing for which he prayed was right, that the time had come, and that now the wondrous blessings of the priesthood should be extended to worthy men everywhere regardless of lineage. Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing. It was a quiet and sublime occasion. There was not the sound ‘as of a rushing mighty wind,’ there were not ‘cloven tongues like as of fire’ (Acts 2:2–3) as there had been on the Day of Pentecost. But there was a Pentacostal spirit, for the Holy Ghost was there. No voice audible to our physical ears was heard. But the voice of the Spirit whispered with certainty into our minds and our very souls. It was for us, at least for me personally, as I imagine it was with Enos, who said concerning his remarkable experience, ‘And while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind.’ (Enos 1:10.) So it was on that memorable June 1, 1978.” (15 May 1988, “Priesthood Restoration,” Ensign, vol. 18, no. 10, edited by Hugh W. Pinnock [Salt Lake City, Utah: Published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Oct. 1988], p. 70.)
In January 2007, Gordon B. Hinckley was interviewed by PBS for a documentary entitled The Mormons. Here is what was said about the 1978 “revelation”:
Interviewer: “We’ve spoken to a lot of people about the significance of that 1978 revelation [ending the ban on people with African blood becoming priests]. Blacks and whites and Mormons describe it as one of the most extraordinary moments in the church’s history in the 20th century. I haven’t spoken to anybody who was there, but I have read what you’ve said and written about that moment. Can you talk about it?”
Gordon B. Hinckley: “It was a landmark occasion. We were in the temple. We gathered in prayer, and President [Spencer] Kimball led [us] in prayer, and he talked about it. It had been on his mind for a good while. And as he prayed, he talked with the Lord about it, and there just settled over us a feeling that this is the right thing; the time has come; now is the opportunity. And on the basis of that we proceeded.”
Interviewer: “In some of your speeches and writings on the subject, you also used language that I would love to know more about. You felt that a conduit to God had opened up and almost a Pentecostal spirit [was there] in the room.”
Gordon B. Hinckley: “No, it wasn’t like any other moment. There was something of a Pentecostal spirit. But on the other hand it was peaceful, quiet, not a cataclysmic thing in any sense. There was just a feeling that came over all of us, and we knew that it was the right thing at the right time and that we should proceed. And this made all the difference in the world. We’ve grown strong in Africa and in Brazil and in other places. There is no race bias among us. It’s been well received all over the church, and I’m satisfied in my own mind, as one who was there, that the right thing happened at the right time in the right way.”
Interviewer: “I gather for President Kimball it was something he brought to the Lord on many occasions, that he prayed night after night. Is that true?”
Gordon B. Hinckley: “That’s my understanding. This was not just all of a sudden. This had been on his mind for a good long time. He had prayed about it, worried about it, talked about it. And then it happened.”
Interviewer: “Could I ask you a little about revelation itself? Some scholars who have not experienced it describe it as communication with God, but distinct from impressions or insights. How would you describe it or explain it?”
Gordon B. Hinckley: “I think it’s best described in the experience of Elijah: When there was a great wind and the Lord was not in the wind; and a great fire and the Lord was not in the fire; and then a still small voice, and the Lord was there. That’s the best description I know of the process of revelation.” (http://www.pbs.org/mormons/interviews/hinckley.html.)
Q.—Were the Brethren in 1978 deceived?
A.—A powerful manifestation from the Holy Ghost certainly counts as a revelation. The problem, however, is that this 1978 revelation still stands in contradiction to what was taught by past Church leaders. Is it possible that Spencer W. Kimball and his associates were mistaken?
Joseph Smith Jr. gave this warning to the members of the Church: “One great evil is that men … imagine that when there is any thing like power, revelation, or vision manifested that it must be of God. … Nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit, when they think they have the spirit of God. … The world always mistook false prophets for true ones.” He further stated that we can know a manifestation is false by it “contradicting a former revelation.” (“Try the Spirits,” Times and Seasons, vol. 3, no. 11, edited by Joseph Smith [Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois: Published by Joseph Smith, 1 Apr. 1842], pp. 744, 747.)
Brigham Young said: “I told the people that if they would not believe the revelations that God had given he would suffer the devil to give revelations. … I told the people that as true as God lived, if they would not have truth they would have error sent unto them, and they would believe it.” (8 June 1873, “Discourse,” reported by David W. Evans, The Deseret News, vol. 22, no. 20, edited by George Q. Cannon [Salt Lake City: Published by George Q. Cannon, 18 June 1873], p. 308.)
Along the same lines, Paul tells us that, regarding those who “received not the love of the truth, … God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” (2 Thessalonians 2:10, 11.)
Q.—Do we have any more detailed information about the events leading up to the 1978 policy-change?
A.—A noted historian, D. Michael Quinn, provides us with the following information: “On 12 November 1969 Stanford University refused to participate in athletic competitions with BYU because of the church’s refusal to ordain blacks. First Counselor Hugh B. Brown had been on record for six years as favoring an end to this ban. In 1969 he wrote of the denial of priesthood to those of black African ancestry:
“ ‘Personally I doubt if we can maintain or sustain ourselves in the position which we seem to have adopted but which has no justification as far as the scriptures are concerned so far as I know. I think we are going to have to change our decision on that. The President says that it can come only by revelation. If that be true then it will come in due course. I think it is one of the most serious problems confronting us because of course it affects the millions of colored people.’
“This matter ‘caused many tense moments, tremendous debate, and unrest,’ Harold B. Lee’s biographer acknowledged, ‘particularly in the Church leadership ranks.’ A First Presidency secretary also noted that this Stanford situation ‘touched off another round of debates as to whether this policy was based on principle or was merely a practice.’
“In November 1969 Brown privately lobbied Stanford University to delay their decision to boycott BYU. The night before Stanford’s announcement Brown told the university’s vice-president that he expected the church to drop this restriction. Shortly after Stanford’s decision Brown ‘was able to get a proposal allowing full priesthood for Blacks approved by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.’ With church president David O. McKay unable to function, the way was now open for the two counselors and the Quorum of Twelve to issue a joint declaration granting priesthood to those of black African ancestry. Second counselor N. Eldon Tanner confided to BYU’s president Ernest Wilkinson on 3 December 1969 that ‘a special committee was to report on the negro situation.’ Wilkinson labeled his memorandum of the conversation as ‘ULTRA CONFIDENTIAL.’ Apostle Harold B. Lee, an increasingly powerful member of the Twelve, was absent during his quorum’s decision and rejected it upon his return. Lee not only opposed giving priesthood to blacks, he also held ‘the traditional belief as revealed in the Old Testament that the races ought to be kept together.’
“Lee persuaded the Quorum of Twelve to rescind its vote. Then he pressured the first counselor to sign a statement which reaffirmed the priesthood restriction on blacks ‘in view of confusion that has arisen.’ Brown’s grandson relates how the first counselor surrendered his deeply felt convictions to Apostle Lee:
“ ‘Grandfather managed to add language to Elder Lee’s statement endorsing full civil rights for all citizens, but he still resisted signing the statement. However, he suffered from advanced age and the late stages of Parkinson’s disease and was ill with the Asian flu. With Grandfather in this condition, Elder Lee brought tremendous pressure to bear upon him, arguing that with President McKay incapacitated Grandfather was obligated to join the consensus within the Quorum of the Twelve. Grandfather, deeply ill, wept as he related this story to me just before he signed the statement that bore his and President Tanner’s names.’
“Lee’s reaffirmation of the restriction was a collaborative effort involving Neal A. Maxwell, Gordon B. Hinckley, and G. Homer Durham. To this committee-produced document, Brown made his addition which endorsed civil rights. Dated 15 December 1969, this extraordinarily important First Presidency document was signed only by the two counselors.
“Brown did not accept gracefully the defeat of his effort to reverse the church’s ban against African Americans. Less than a week after he had reluctantly signed Lee’s statement, Brown told a San Francisco newspaper reporter that the church’s priesthood ban against blacks ‘will change in the not too distant future.’ Known for ‘his fiery temper,’ Lee privately exploded on 27 December, saying that Brown had been ‘talking too much.’
“Lee’s biographer observes that because ‘misleading announcements in the media caused much confusion during the Christmas holidays of 1969, the statement, which earlier had been circulated to Church leaders in missions, stakes, and wards, was released nationally. It appeared in print for the Latter-day Saints to read in the Church News, on Saturday, January 10, 1970.’ The most recent ‘misleading announcement’ was a published claim that Harold B. Lee was responsible for the Presidency’s statement. Brown was probably also the source for that disclosure. Unaware of all these discussions due to his mental incapacity, President McKay died a week after the statement’s publication.
“Not surpisingly, there was no change in this policy of priesthood restriction dunng the presidencies of McKay’s two successors. Lee was first counselor to McKay’s immediate successor Joseph Fielding Smith, and Lee set the administrative agenda. When asked about the priesthood restriction against blacks on the day he became LDS president in July 1972, Harold B. Lee announced that he ‘intended to stand by and wait until the Lord speaks.’ That passivity did not result in a revelation, and Lee’s support of racial segregation did not predispose him to actively seek such a revelation.
“Five years after Lee’s death, church president Spencer W. Kimball in June 1978 extended priesthood ordination to all Mormon men of black African ancestry. For decades he had been troubled about this racial restriction, and was among the apostles who unsuccessfully voted for this proposal eight-and-a-half years earlier. This change in LDS policy was unique in two respects: the length of time it took for the church president to indicate his intentions to his associates in the hierarchy; and the care with which he obtained their gradual assent before he actually put the proposal to a vote.
“As recently revealed by a secretary to the First Presidency, in early 1977 Kimball began ‘to focus on it intensely’ and then decided to end the priesthood restriction in the near future. Remarkably, the church president indicated this to a faithful Mormon of black African ancestry, but not to any of his associates in the LDS hierarchy.
“At the cornerstone-laying ceremony for the Brazilian temple on 9 March 1977, Kimball privately told Helvecio Martins to prepare himself to receive the priesthood. He pointedly asked if Martins ‘understood the implications of what President Kimball had said,’ and the African-Brazilian ‘said he understood.’ Kimball waited more than a year before he informed any general authority of his intentions.
“Although he was keeping his own counsel, Spencer W. Kimball began laying the groundwork for ending the priesthood ban. On 22 February 1978 he issued a First Presidency letter to all stake and mission leaders: ‘If there is no evidence to indicate that a man has Negro blood, you would not be justified in withholding the priesthood and temple blessings from him, if he is otherwise worthy.’ This stopped denial of priesthood merely on the basis of black African ‘appearance,’ yet only the church president and a Brazilian black Mormon knew that this was a prelude to ending the ban entirely—and soon.
“On 23 March 1978 ‘President Kimball advised his counselors that he had had a wakeful night struggling with the question of priesthood restrictions and felt they should be lifted.’ He and his counselors discussed the matter for a month before he informed the Twelve. He asked them to join the First Presidency in prayer as a group and individually about the matter. Kimball met privately with individual apostles who expressed their ‘individual thoughts’ about his suggestion to end the priesthood ban.
“After discussing this in several temple meetings and private discussions, Kimball wrote a statement ‘in longhand removing all priesthood restrictions on blacks’ and presented it to his counselors on 30 May. He then asked his counselors and the apostles ‘to fast and pray that the Lord would make his mind and will clear in this matter’ at their temple meeting on 1 June. At the temple council that day ‘the feeling was unanimous that the time had come to lift the restrictions.’ In the prayer circle of the men on this occasion, Apostle Bruce R. McConkie testified that ‘we all heard the same voice, received the same message, and became personal witnesses that the word received was the mind and will of the Lord,’ while Apostle David B. Haight affirmed: ‘Each was witness to a transcendent heavenly event.’ Gordon B. Hinckley added this clarification: ‘No voice audible to our physical ears was heard. But the voice of the spirit whispered into our minds and our very souls.’
“On 7 June 1978 Kimball informed his counselors that ‘through inspiration he had decided to lift the restrictions on priesthood.’ In the meantime he had asked three apostles (including Boyd K. Packer) to prepare ‘suggested wording for the public announcement of the decision.’ The First Presidency used the three documents to prepare a fourth preliminary statement which was ‘then reviewed, edited, and approved by the First Presidency. This document was taken to the council meeting with the Twelve on Thursday, June 8, 1978.’ The apostles made additional “minor editorial changes’ in the nearly final statement which was then presented to all general authorities the next day, just hours before its public announcement.
“It had been an extraordinary administrative journey for a momentous change in the LDS church. The Presidency’s secretary adds that when the general authorities ended this race-based restriction, ‘it seemed to relieve them of a subtle sense of guilt they had felt over the years.’ ” (D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power [Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, ©1997], pp. 13–17.)
Some interesting things we learn from the above is that “in early 1977 Kimball began ‘to focus on it intensely’ and then decided to end the priesthood restriction in the near future.” In early 1978, “Spencer W. Kimball began laying the groundwork for ending the priesthood ban.” Finally, we learn that “Kimball wrote a statement ‘in longhand removing all priesthood restrictions on blacks’ and presented it to his counselors on 30 May ,” two days before the alleged revelation was received. If the Lord’s answer would have been that the curse has not been removed, and that the priesthood restriction should continue, would Spencer W. Kimball have been prepared to receive such an answer? He was already moving in the direction he personally wanted, before even receiving the alleged confirmation from the Lord. If one should argue that Spencer W. Kimball already knew the will of the Lord, prior to June 1978, and that he was simply providing the rest of the apostles with the opportunity of coming to know for themselves, I will remind you that during Spencer W. Kimball’s “meeting [with] the Council of the Twelve in the temple,” in June 1978, where “this revelation and assurance” was allegedly received, he had “offered the final prayer,” in which he “told the Lord if it wasn’t right, if he didn’t want this change to come in the Church that I would be true to it all the rest of my life, and I’d fight the world against it if that’s what He wanted.” (“ ‘News’ interviews prophet,” Church News, vol. 49, no. 1 [Salt Lake City, Utah: Published by The Deseret News, 6 Jan. 1979], p. 4.) It is clear to me from these words that Spencer W. Kimball did not yet know the mind and will of the Lord.
Another interesting bit of information comes from a book by John Heinerman and Anson Shupe. According to their research, church leaders hired a consulting firm, rather than just consulting with the Lord: “Defenders of the Church argue that there was little external pressure on President Kimball for such a ‘revelation.’ The activist phase of the civil rights movement, for example, had largely subsided by the late 1970s. The defenders’ view holds that the ‘revelation’ cannot be explained away by circumstantial evidence or the conjecture of adverse public opinion. No specific ‘smoking guns’ can be produced to link outside influences to the Prophet Kimball’s announcement; hence it is assumed to have come literally through revelation from God Almighty.
“In fact, evidence exists that the Church made its much-publicized decision to admit blacks to the Mormon priesthood after a deliberate, rational consideration of public opinion, future Church membership growth, and similar factors. In 1971 the First Presidency acquired the services of one of America’s largest general management and consulting firms, Cresup, McCormick & Paget (CMP) in New York City. This firm had built a solid reputation in managing such corporate strategies as mergers and acquisitions for well-known clients like Ford and General Motors. On the advice of Mormon corporate advisers, such as J. Willard Marriott and David Kennedy, LDS President Harold B. Lee requested that CMP study how the Church’s communications organization could commit resources more efficiently to improve internal communications as well as public relations. No mention was made in the CMP report of the Church’s racial policy, but Church leaders seemed interested in applying modern management perspectives to their own goals and problems.
“In 1974 and 1975 the First Presidency under new President Spencer W. Kimball authorized three more studies by CMP. One study produced a report for the Church’s Health Services Corporation on how to streamline its operations and make the organization more cost-efficient and resulted in the Church’s divesting itself entirely of its unprofitable hospital system. Two other studies were done for the LDS Social Services Department and Welfare Department and for the Presiding Bishopric’s Office.
“In 1975 one final CMP study was carried out for the LDS Church. This effort produced the consulting firm’s longest report, dealing with the role and organization of the Presiding Bishopric itself, Church policy positions and administrative procedures, and other internal matters. Most important, among the recommendations made by the consulting firm were ‘a careful review’ of certain potentially embarrassing ‘doctrinal policies’ such as the Negro issue and ‘a serious reconsideration’ of such policies in light of past public relations problems that they had caused. The report strongly urged that Church leaders reassess the race issue and its ‘relevancy’ for the future. The problem posed by building a new temple in São Paulo, with a population largely of mixed blood, was specifically mentioned in this report. Two additional consultants hired for the same purpose voiced similar concerns about the wisdom of continuing a restriction of the Mormon priesthood to whites.
“Many organizational changes touching the average LDS member were made as a result of these reports, but from the standpoint of public relations, none was as important as the change resulting from the consultants’ unanimous recommendations about LDS racial policy. Three years later, on June 9, 1978, Church authorities announced the ‘revelation’ rescinding the traditional ban on a black priesthood. The ‘revelation’ had been preceded by a great deal of prayer, meditation, and meetings among President Kimball and the members of the Council of the Twelve. Whether one wants to credit its inspiration to any divine agency is ultimately unimportant. (Church leaders themselves admitted that the racial issue had been on their minds for a long time.) What is important is that not long before the Church president and prophet’s decision (conscious or subconscious) to announce a new racial policy based on divine ‘revelation,’ several professional consulting firms in which the Church had previously demonstrated confidence suggested to Church leaders that they reconsider the status of blacks in the Mormon Church as part of a major overhaul of Church policy. The fact that such firms were retained in the first place is in no way inconsistent with the Church’s past concern either for its public image or for its long-range theological goals. No other religious group in American society has conducted such a sustained campaign to gain public respectability, nor has such respectability been so integral a part of any other group’s sense of its own destiny.
“The change of heart over admitting blacks to the Mormon priesthood had precisely the public relations effect that the consultants expected.” (The Mormon Corporate Empire [Boston: Beacon Press, ©1985], pp. 70–71.)
Almost two months after the Brethren received the 1978 revelation, Bruce R. McConkie told family members that “this revelation is something in the same category as the revelation which caused Wilford Woodruff to issue the Manifesto” (Doctrines of the Restoration, edited and arranged by Mark L. McConkie [Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, ©1989], p. 171).
Bruce R. McConkie’s comparison is interesting, because the Brethren—both in 1890, and in 1978—used the same passage of scripture (D&C 124:49) to justify the course of action they were pursing:
“At the Sixty-first Semi-Annual Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Oct. 6, 1890, immediately following the adoption by the General Assembly of the Manifesto issued by President Wilford Woodruff in relation to plural marriage,” President George Q. Cannon, First Counselor in the First Presidency, made the following remarks: “On the 19th of January, 1841, the Lord gave His servant Joseph Smith a revelation, the 49th paragraph of which I will read: ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men, to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might, and with all they have, to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them, and hinder them from performing that work; behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings.’ [D&C 124:49.] The Lord says other things connected with this, which I do not think it necessary to read, but the whole revelation is profitable, and can be read by those who desire to do so. It is on this basis that President Woodruff has felt himself justified in issuing this manifesto.” (“Remarks,” The Deseret Weekly, vol. 41, no. 17, edited by Charles W. Penrose [Salt Lake City, Utah: Published by The Deseret News Company, 18 Oct. 1890], p. 550; paragraphing omitted.)
Boyd K. Packer’s biographer informs us that “one day, during the Thursday temple meeting with his Counselors and the Twelve, President Kimball, who was pondering that matter [giving blacks the Priesthood], discussed it with his brethren. When it was Elder Packer’s turn to speak, he read a scripture: ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings” (D&C 124:49). A few days later President Kimball asked Brother Packer where he would be the next Saturday. Elder Packer told him he would be speaking Friday evening at the Dixie College baccalaureate but would return by plane early on Saturday. ‘Will you come to my office?’ the President asked. ‘Of course,’ Elder Packer responded. Upon his return about one o’clock on Saturday, Brother Packer went directly to the Church Office Building. The security officer on duty said that the President was at home and wished Elder Packer to call as soon as he came into the building. Reaching President Kimball by phone, Elder Packer offered, ‘I’ll come right up.’ ‘No, I’ll come down and meet you.’ Arriving shortly after this, the President entered his office. Elder Packer recalls his saying that he had ‘this thing’ on his mind and wanted to talk about it. ‘There was no need to explain what this thing was,’ Elder Packer recalled. ‘We both knew how it was weighing upon him. He handed me his scriptures and said he’d like me to read to him from the revelations. So we started with the one from Doctrine and Covenants 124:49 that I had read in the temple. For a couple of hours we just moved back and forth through the Doctrine and Covenants, the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price, and then talked about what we read. The spirit of revelation seemed to be brooding upon the prophet that day. He asked me, assuming that the revelation was to come, how it might best be announced to the Church, and asked that I put something in writing. This I did and handed it to him a day or two later. He had asked one or two of the others to do the same.’ On Thursday, 8 June 1978, in the Salt Lake Temple, the revelation was reaffirmed when the First Presidency and the Twelve approved the announcement that was to go out to the world. It was further reaffirmed in the temple on 9 June 1978 by all of the General
Authorities available. They too unanimously approved the announcement.” (Lucile C. Tate, Boyd K. Packer: A Watchman on the Tower [Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, ©1995], pp. 225–26; paragraphing omitted.)
Is this passage of scripture (D&C 124:49) valid justification? Five years before the “manifesto” was issued, Charles W. Penrose, who would later serve in the Quorum of the Twelve and in the First Presidency, wrote an editorial that was published in the Church-owned Deseret Evening News:
“Influences are at work whose object is to create an impression in favor of the renunciation or temporary suspension of the law of celestial marriage. Arguments are being used to that end, in a semi-private way, with a view to gaining converts to that idea.
“Perhaps such pleadings may influence a few people who are not in the habit of probing subjects to the bottom and are not particularly gifted with the power to analyze the motives by which men are actuated. Good Latter-day Saints, however, who have within themselves that needful reason for the hope that inspires them are not affected by the shallow pretexts of semi-apostates.
“To give Gospel coloring to the position assumed by those who express themselves as ready to sell out whatever hold they may have on the work of God, they complacently quote from the revelations contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. Attempts are made to twist these divine communications from their plain intent, in order that they may subserve alterior purposes. …
“We are not yet through with treating upon the quotations sometimes referred to by the weak-backed who need a ramrod fastened parallel with their spinal column, and occasional manifest a desire to see the stiffening taken out of others. A favorite passage used by such will be found on page 435 of the same work from which we have already extracted. Here it is:
“ ‘Verily, verily I say unto you, That when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men, to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might, and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them, and hinder them from performing that work; behold, it behoveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings. [D&C 124:49.] …’
“It is a little singular that some peopel will persistently refuse to see the difference between a certain special work and a principle or law. The consistency of the Lord relieving a people from any such obligation as the building of a house when prevented by their enemies from accomplishing it is self-evident. When it comes to the abrogation of a law, a principle, a truth, the matter is entirely different. The revelation does not apply even remotely to the present situation.” (“No Relinquishment,” Deseret Evening News, vol. 18, no. 164, edited by Charles W. Penrose [Salt Lake City, Utah Territory: Published by The Deseret News Company, 5 June 1885], p. .)
If D&C 124:49 “does not apply even remotely to” suspending plural marriage, then it applies even less to giving the Priesthood to a race that is cursed from holding the Priesthood. It is easier to conceive of the Lord withdrawing a higher law that the people are incapable of obeying, than it is to conceive of Him allowing us to give the seed of Cain (who were to bear their curse until after the end of the Millennium) the Priesthood due to external pressures and administrative difficulties.
Q.—Is there any other evidence we can look at to determine whether or not the curse was actually removed from the seed of Cain?
A.—Are black people still cursed to this day? If they are, they cannot hold the priesthood, for as I previously quoted, “until the curse is removed by Him who placed it upon them, they must suffer under its consequences.” (Brigham Young, 23 Jan. 1852, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, vol. 1 [1832–1852], edited by Richard S. Van Wagoner [Salt Lake City: The Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2009], p. 473.)
It is logical to conclude that if the mark of the curse (“the flat nose and black skin”) is still present, then the curse itself is also still present. Thus, so long as a person is black, they must still be under that curse. In the Book of Mormon, when a certain group of Lamanites repented of their wickedness, “their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites” (3 Nephi 2:15). Why wouldn’t it be the same for the seed of Cain? Why would God remove the curse, but leave the mark of the curse? The whole point of the mark was so that people would know if someone was under that curse. Thus, if you see that a person is black, you may know they are under that curse.
In reference to those who bear this “mark,” Brigham Young said that we “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.” (9 Oct. 1859, “Remarks,” reported by G. D. Watt, The Deseret News [weekly], vol. 9, no. 34, edited by Elias Smith [Great Salt Lake City: Published by Elias Smith, 26 Oct. 1858], p. 266; also in Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, edited by Amasa Lyman [Liverpool: Published by Amasa Lyman, 1860], p. 290.)
If the curse was lifted in 1978 or earlier, wouldn’t we find evidence today that black people are just as intelligent as other races? According to recently-created international IQ maps, this is not the case.
Q.—Is there any other evidence that the 1978 policy-changes were wrong?
A.—From all appearances, the Church acted prematurely in 1978. Have the words of Brigham Young been fulfilled? Has “the priesthood [been] taken from this church and kingdom and [has] God le[ft] us to our fate”? Will “the Church … go to destruction”? (Brigham Young, 5 Jan. 1852, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, vol. 1 [1832–1852], edited by Richard S. Van Wagoner [Salt Lake City: The Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2009], p. 470.)
Gordon B. Hinckley did say, in reference to the Brethren receiving the 1978 revelation, that “not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that. Nor has the Church been quite the same.” (15 May 1988, “Priesthood Restoration,” Ensign, vol. 18, no. 10, edited by Hugh W. Pinnock [Salt Lake City, Utah: Published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Oct. 1988], p. 70.)
The Lord tells us that “inasmuch as my people build a house unto me in the name of the Lord, and do not suffer any unclean thing to come into it, that it be not defiled, my glory shall rest upon it; yea, and my presence shall be there, for I will come into it, and all the pure in heart that shall come into it shall see God. But if it be defiled I will not come into it, and my glory shall not be there; for I will not come into unholy temples.” (D&C 97:15–17.)
Ezra refers to the “filthiness” and “uncleanness” of the Canaanites (see Ezra 9:11).
If the curse has not yet been removed from the Canaanites, they are still unclean. If this is true, then the temples have been defiled by the Church allowing black people to enter into them and participate in the ordinances thereof. God will not allow this to go on for much longer. After the Savior returns to the earth, “there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 14:21.) This verse of scripture alone is a strong piece of evidence against the validity of the 1978 revelation.