In Peggy Fletcher Stack’s article, Mormon church disputes BYU prof's remarks about blacks, published Feb 24, 2012, we learn that a BYU professor has been perpetuating racist ideas. See the link above for details. Also, see the Washington Post article here.
When I read about Bott I remembered when missionaries in the area where I live in the 1990s were walking around with copies of Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine, that was issued by their Mission President, and teaches some of the same things Bott said. I recall being taught the seed of Cain dogma in LDS institute class around 2001. I have been out of Mormon culture since then.
Back in June of 2011, I wrote a blog post titled,
The Harm of the Seed of Cain Doctrine & Why It Hasn't Been Repudiated. Mr. Bott’s actions further support what I say in that post. The fact is that if you walk into most Mormons homes and examine their Mormon books you will likely find some book written by an LDS leader that confirms exactly what Bott was saying about blacks.
Bott’s comments, from what I can tell, are exactly what you find in LDS literature and in the minds of many Mormons who, in trying to find a reason for why blacks were denied the priesthood, speculate this way as if it were true. I remember on my LDS mission from 1995 to 1997 the idea that blacks weren’t ready yet for the priesthood, similar to how Bott puts it, was a very popular explanation for the priesthood ban. This was one idea I rejected even back then as an LDS missionary.
The racial policy of the church has a long history of active discrimination:
"In 1908 the First Presidency and council of the twelve formerly instructed the missionaries 'not to take the initiative in proselytizing among the Negro people…or to people tainted with Negro blood.'”(Council Meeting, 26 August 1908, George A. Smith papers). Two years later the church gave scriptural legitimacy to this position in the Pearl of Great Price, quoting this book they declared: 'We learn the Enoch in his day called upon all the people to repent, save the people of Canaan, and it is for us to do likewise.' (Joseph F. Smith and Anthon Lund to Rudger Clawson, 18 November 1910, Adam S. Bennion Papers.) This policy remained in effect until 1978. Before 1978 Mormon Apostle Bruce McConkie declared in Mormon Doctrine, with regards to his African American brothers and sisters, that “the gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to them” (pg 477). Source: http://www.angelfire.com/mo2/blackmormon/q8.htm, Nov. 2010.
Former LDS missionaries have come forward to reveal that Mormon missionaries used to engage in a form of “racial profiling” in order to avoid giving anyone suspected of being of “the lineage of Cain” the priesthood. Former LDS missionary, Owen D. West, III (who served his mission in the 1970s in Rio di Janeiro, Brazil) writes that the missionaries had a:
special lesson that anyone with the marks of the lineage of Cain had to hear and had to accept without reservation before being baptized. These marks amounted to what we would call “racial profiling” in our current time. In northern Brazil, interracial unions were very common and socially acceptable. These unions over the years had produced a very beautiful people that were not obviously Black called Mulattos [a popular term in Brazil]. We were taught to look for the marks of the lineage of Cain. I was taught to look at the difference in color between the top of a person’s hand and the palm. A lighter palm or a distinct transition of dark to light skin, looking at the skin between the forefinger and the thumb, was a sign of “the lineage” as we called it. We also looked for wide and flat noses and kinky, tightly curled hair. At that time if you had Black ancestry from Africa (“Injo Africano”) while you could be baptized, you and your children would never be allowed to hold the priesthood. This meant that people with “the lineage” were not eligible to go to the new temple that was being built in San Paulo. We had to explain this to these people before they could be baptized. …”. Source: http://truthseeker.tripod.com/LDSQUESTION45.html
On his webpage Owen D. West, III provides a full English translation of scanned originals in Portuguese of the Lineage Lesson. The lesson has the missionaries teaching doctrine and then asking the investigator questions. Part of which reads:
5. If I [the investigator] am called I will accept the priesthood.
Anciently, it was revealed who could receive the priesthood. We already read about Barnabas, Paul, and Aaron. It was also revealed who could not receive the priesthood. Would you like to read in the book of Abraham 1:26-27? What does verse 27 say about Pharaoh and the priesthood.
Exactly, Brother Nunes. Pharaoh was a descendant of people who could not receive the priesthood. Lets examine this lineage to learn its origin. Are you acquainted with the story of Abel and Cain?
Lets read this story in the Bible. Read Genesis 4:8-15. Cain and his descendants received a mark that distinguished them from all other peoples. This people, the descendants of Cain, for reasons not completely known to men, do not have the right to the priesthood. For example, it was revealed to Abraham that Pharaoh, being from this so called lineage of Cain, could not receive the priesthood. Brother Nunes, we have seen that Aaron, Barnabas, Paul, and others receive the priesthood because they were called by God by revelation. In the same manner, why have the prophets not given the priesthood to the lineage of Cain?
In order to understand the mark put on Cain and to understand how the prophets distinguish this lineage, lets read Moses 7:22. Read Moses 7:22. How was this lineage distinguished from the others?
And concerning the priesthood, why was this group or this lineage different?
6. God revealed anciently that the lineage of Cain could not receive the priesthood.
In order to understand what God revealed about this people today, we need to go to the modern prophets. Do you want to read the underlined part of this pamphlet? Read the following part from the letter of the First Presidency published in the “Priesthood Bulletin.” Vol6. No. 1 - February 1970. “Since the beginning of this dispensation, Joseph Smith and all of the successive presidents of the Church have taught that the Negroes, while spiritual children of a common Father, and descendants of our earthly parents Adam and Eve, still cannot receive the Priesthood, for reasons that we believe are known to God, but which He has not made completely known to men.” What does this say there about the Negroes and the priesthood?
Exactly. Negroes that honestly seek the truth and desire to join the church can be baptized. However, why does the Church not confer the Priesthood on them?
7. God revealed that Negroes still cannot receive the priesthood.
For this reason the priesthood is not actively preached to the lineage of Cain. The prophets have told us to preach the gospel to those that have the right to the priesthood. But lets read what god said about the Negroes in the future. Read the following paragraph from the letter of the First Presidency: “President McKay also said that ‘One day in the eternal plan of God, the Negro will be given the right to possess the Priesthood.’” What did the prophet say about the Negroes and the priesthood?
I know that this is true. And when that time comes, how will we know?
This is followed by a “Letter From The First Presidency, February, 1970,” which has the following excerpt:
Since the beginning of this dispensation, Joseph Smith and all of the succeeding presidents of the Church have taught that the Negroes, while spirit children of a common Father, and descendants of our earthly parents, Adam and Eve, still cannot receive the Priesthood, for reasons that we believe are known to God, but that He has not made fully known to mankind.
President David O. McKay, always repeated that “The apparent discrimination of the Church against the Negro is not something that originated with man; but has it’s origin with God…
“The revelation assures us that this plan existed before the mortal existence of men, extending their state from the pre-existence.”
Mr. West comments in the first link above: “I am saddened to learn that the LDS church is today trying to rewrite it’s history by denying that it ever espoused a rational that explained and supported why Blacks could be denied the Priesthood.”
This practice of racial profiling is corroborated by Mark L. Grove. He relates a sad tale of young Brazilians before 1978 being rejected from holding the priesthood at the time of their being accepted by the congregation because it is realized they are of the “lineage of Cain.” See Religious Accommodation in the Land of Racial Democracy: Mormon Priesthood and Black Brazilians by Mark L. Grove. The article explains how Brazil’s interracial diversity made it difficult for Mormons to tell who was the alleged lineage of Cain and who was not. This no doubt is one of the reasons that led to the 1978 policy change, which the article discussess. On pages 27-28, Grove writes:
“Identifying the racial background of all investigators was an important missionary responsibility. When approaching a contact, the missionaries were to scrutinize the color of the skin, eyes, and hair, the shape of the nose and face, color lines on the hands and feet, and the texture of the hair. If the person did not have negroid physical features, the missionaries would try to interest him or her in the Church. Sometime during the first few visits, the missionaries would discreetly probe the family’s racial history using genealogical interest as a pretext. The inquiry generally involved questions of ancestral origin and often included looking at family photos. … After all or most of the gospel discussions, the missionaries would present a special lineage lesson which included a direct question concerning the lineage of the family.”
During my Mormon mission there was a book on Mormon apologetics I was given by another missionary in 1996, written by Michael W. Hickenbotham, called “Quenching the fiery darts.” In the book the author states:
“cush’ was the name of Ham’s son and means ‘black’ and ‘Ethiopian’ in Hebrew (Strong’s exhaustive Bible Concordance’ see Cush; see also Jer 13:23). So Cush transmitted the curse to the Pharaohs of Egypt; and thus implication to Negroes as interpreted by Mormon prophets. Add the Book of Mormon scriptures where God had cursed the lamanites with a black skin for being bad, and the book of Moses cursing the people of Canaan for being bad (see: Moses 6:17, 41-42; 7:7-10.) and you have the doctrine that sustained the priesthood denial until 1978. Few Americans today have ever heard of the seed of Cain theory and most members of the church aren’t aware of it. It developed outside the church, but was absorbed into Mormon theology. My choice was clear, I could either accept it being of God, or the church was seriously fallible and the Pearl of Great Price was not authentic scripture. (For more study see “Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine, Dialogues (spring 1973); pp. 35-6, 62. Also “Compilation on the Negro in Mormonism,” Appendix I (manuscript available in LDS Church Archives.)
As of 2012, the LDS church has never officially repudiated the seed of Cain dogma that is contained in official statements by the LDS First Presidency:
“The arm of flesh may not approve nor understand why God has not bestowed the priesthood on women or the seed of Cain, but God's ways are not man's ways ... The Prophet Joseph Smith understood this principle when he said, '. . . 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 ...” (Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Reports, October 1967, p.34). Source: http://scriptures.byu.edu/gettalk.php?ID=1569&era=yes
The following quotes below are from mormonthink.com:
The First Presidency issued the following official statements signed by all three members. (emphasis added):
[In] 1947 the First Presidency (supreme council) of the Church issued an Official Statement:
"From the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith even until now, it has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by Church leaders, that the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel." (Statement of The First Presidency on the Negro Question, July 17 1947, quoted in Mormonism and the Negro, pp.46-7)
In 1949, The First Presidency issued the following statement:
"The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time." (The First Presidency on the Negro Question, 17 Aug. 1949)
Official Statement of First Presidency issued on August 17, 1951, reads:
"The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the pre-mortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality, and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the principle itself indicates that the coming to this earth and taking on mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintained their first estate; and that the worth of the privilege is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes.....
"Man will be punished for his own sins and not for Adam's transgression. If this is carried further, it would imply that the Negro is punished or allotted to a certain position on this earth, not because of Cain's transgression, but came to earth through the loins of Cain because of his failure to achieve other stature in the spirit world. " [Note: words in italics are my own for emphasis, words in bold are from Mormon Think for emphasis].
Brigham Young said:
"You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind....Cain slew his brother. Can might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin" (The Journal of Discourses vol. 7, page 290).
Brigham Young also stated, “I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the Children of men, that they may not call scripture!” (Journal of Discourses, Vol.13, pg. 95).
The LDS Church (the First Presidency) has always sanctioned Brigham Young's seed of Cain doctrine. The 1949 First Presidency statement, quoted above, goes on to say:
"… The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle [the doctrine of denying blacks the priesthood]. President Brigham Young said: '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'..." (The First Presidency Statement on the Negro Question, August 17, 1949; also cited in Mormonism and the Negro, by John J. Stewart and William E. Berrett, 1960, Part 2, p. 16).
Notice that Young mentioned two doctrines (1. blacks are the seed of Cain. 2. Blacks aren’t entitled to the priesthood until after mortality and every other race receives the priesthood.) After the 1978 “revelation” the church didn’t denounce the seed of Cain doctrine but only repudiated the second doctrine that blacks wouldn’t receive the priesthood in mortality, which they did indirectly with Declaration 2 in the Doctrine and Covenants I will discuss below.
According to a Mormon website: “The five-volume Answers to Gospel Questions (1957-1966) was a compilation of answers to gospel questions printed in Church magazines over a period of years.” (Source: http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/people/joseph_fielding_smith.html).
In Answers to Gospel Questions Volume 2, by Joseph Fielding Smith, we read:
Quote: Answers to Gospel Questions is presented to Church readers with the sincere hope that it will provide answers to perplexing questions and increase knowledge of Church doctrine.
Quote: The next question: "Was Cain cursed with a black skin?"
Technically the black skin was not the curse, but the mark of the curse. The scriptures do not say that Cain was made black, but we read that his descendants were. (Moses 7:22.) We may well suppose that Cain was also black and that this was the mark the Lord placed upon him. (Genesis 4:15.)
THE SEED OF CAIN HAD TO BE PRESERVED
Could it not be said of Ham that he was righteous in that he followed his father into the Ark? The seed of Cain had to be preserved, and Cain was chosen for that mission. It is very possible that Ham received his name due to the fact that he married a black woman. We learn that the names of many individuals in those early years were given them—and often changed—due to incidents which occurred in their lives. For example, Esau's name was changed to Edom, and Jacob's name to Israel, and Abraham was at first known as Abram. It is likely that Ham's name was changed because he had a black wife, for ham is an adjective in Egyptian for black. The name Egyptus means forbidden. (Abraham 1:23.) Is it not reasonable to believe that this has reference to the fact that her descendants, as well as her ancestors, were denied some great blessing? And that that great blessing was denial of the priesthood?
We are informed that the right to the priesthood was denied Pharaoh, and this is in full accord with the attitude of Enoch and others before the flood. Then is it not reasonable to think that Ham named one of his sons Caanan after Cain?
… The Pearl of Great Price tells us definitely that the Egyptians were denied the priesthood. The Prophet taught his brethren that Cain was denied the priesthood and his posterity also to the latest generations. The promise was given that this curse, or restriction, will be removed, when the time comes in some future sphere, when Abel will have posterity. This evidence is collected and published in The Way to Perfection, chapters 15 and 16.
Let us reason together. In the Book of Moses, Chapter 4, and in the Book of Abraham, Chapter 3, we are taught that there was a council held in heaven and our Eternal Father presented a plan by which we could come down on the earth and receive tabernacles (bodies) of flesh and bones for our spirits which are begotten sons and daughters unto God. We learn also that one third of those spirits rebelled against the plan and followed Satan. For this they were denied bodies of flesh and bones and have to remain spirits. Why do not those who complain about the Negro and the priesthood also complain about the punishment which was given to this third of the spirits? They were denied even the blessings of bodies! Was this an injustice on the part of our Eternal Father? Well, there were other spirits there who were not faithful in the keeping of this first estate. (Abraham 3:23-28.) Yet they have not sinned away their right to receive bodies and come to earth and receive the resurrection. They were restricted in the privileges that were given to those who keep their first estate and who were promised to have "glory added upon their heads for ever and ever." (Ibid., 3:26.) Therefore the Lord prepared a way through the lineage of Cain for these spirits to come to the earth, but under the restriction of priesthood.
RESTRICTION OF PRIESTHOOD
Let me call your attention to the following passages from the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price:
And the Lord said unto me: Prophesy; and I prophesied, saying: Behold the people of Canaan, which are numerous, shall go forth in battle array against the people of Shum, and shall slay them that they shall utterly be destroyed; and 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.
And it came to pass that Enoch continued to call upon all the people, save it were the people of Canaan, to repent;
And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it were the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them. (Moses 7:7, 8, 12, 22.) …
… Kindly see chapters 15 and 16, in The Way to Perfection, for further light in relation to the reason why the Negro cannot receive the priesthood. In brief, it is as follows: Because of transgression in the first estate which deprives him in this second estate. Since Cain slew his brother Abel in order to obtain all the rights of priesthood to descend through his lineage, the Lord decreed that the children of Cain should not have the privilege of bearing the priesthood until Abel had posterity who could have the priesthood and that will have to be in the far distant future. When this is accomplished on some other world, then the restrictions will be removed from the children of Cain who have been true in this "second" estate.
[I have cut much of the above quotes from Joseph F. Smith in order to save space in this blog post, for the full quotes, including quotes from his book The Way of Perfection, see the link below].
On Dec 15, 1969, The First Presidency restated Mormon doctrine saying: “Our living Prophet, President David O. McKay, has said, ‘The seeming discrimination by the Church toward the Negro is not something which originated with man; but goes back into the beginning with God…Revelation assures us that this plan antedates man’s mortal existence, extending back to man’s pre-existent state” (Source: Neither White nor Black
Lester E. Bush, Jr. and Armand L. Mauss, eds. Appendix: Authoritative Statements on the Status of Blacks; http://signaturebookslibrary.org/?p=457).
Some Mormon apologists point to the statement by Bruce R. McConkie where he says in his August 1978 talk, All Are Alike unto God:
“There are statements in our literature by the early Brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, … Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever 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. … 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 of this year, 1978.”
Notice that this statement in context refers to the teaching that blacks would “not receive the priesthood in mortality”; he doesn’t say he was wrong about blacks being the seed of Cain. How could they erase it anyway when the First Presidency in the 1949 statement quoted Brigham Young’s saying blacks are the seed of Cain; and the 1951 statement by the First Presidency says that blacks "came to earth through the loins of Cain because of [their] failure to achieve other stature in the spirit world." The fact is, that even though the speech All Are Alike unto God is widely displayed by LDS apologists to argue the doctrine of the seed of Cain is no longer doctrine; it is clear from the words below from the same sermon by McConkie that he meant that we are to ignore him and Brigham Young when they said blacks wouldn’t receive the priesthood in mortality. For McConkie explains the process of the leaders of the church "receiving" the 1978 revelation to allow blacks the priesthood, by still referring to them as the seed of Cain, only now the “curse” has been lifted but they are still the seed of Cain. As Bruce R. McConkie himself puts it in the same sermon (words in italics for emphasis):
The President restated the problem involved, reminded us of our prior discussions, and said he had spent many days alone in this upper room pleading with the Lord for an answer to our prayers. He said that if the answer was to continue our present course of denying the priesthood to the seed of Cain, as the Lord had theretofore directed, he was prepared to defend that decision to the death. But, he said, if the long-sought day had come in which the curse of the past was to be removed, he thought we might prevail upon the Lord to so indicate. He expressed the hope that we might receive a clear answer one way or the other so the matter might be laid to rest … [then after the revelation is allegedly received McConkie states] The ancient curse is no more. The seed of Cain and Ham and Canaan and Egyptus and Pharaoh (Abr. 1:20-27; Moses 5:16-41; 7:8, 22) ... now have power to rise up and bless Abraham as their father. All these, Gentile in lineage, may now come and inherit by adoption all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob ... All these may now be numbered with those in the one fold of the one shepherd who is Lord of all.” (Personal Testimony of Revelation on Priesthood by Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Priesthood [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], pp. 126-37).
If the above isn't clear enough Bruce R. McConkie continued to teach the doctrine of the seed of Cain even after 1978 by having his book Mormon Doctrine continue to promote the Seed of Cain doctrine. McConkie continued to publish the following after 1978:
"Racial degeneration, resulting in differences in appearance and spiritual aptitude, has arisen since the fall. We know the circumstances under which the posterity of Cain (and later of Ham) were born with the characteristics of the black race. (Moses 5:16-41; 7:8,12,22; Abra. 1:20-27.) The Book of Mormon explains why the Lamanites received dark skins and a degenerate status. (2 Ne. 5:21-23.) If we had a full and true history of all races and nations, we would know the origins of all their distinctive characteristics. In the absence of such detailed information, however, we know only the general principle that all these changes from the physical and spiritual perfections of our common parents have been brought about by departure from the gospel truths. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 148-151; vol. 3, pp. 313-326.)" (Mormon Doctrine 1999 printing, p. 616)
With these official statements above in mind we turn to the LDS church’s reaction to Bott’s comments. The LDS church leaders reacted with an official statement posted on the newsroom website titled, “The Church Statement Regarding 'Washington Post' Article on Race and the Church,” which reads:
SALT LAKE CITY — The Church issued the following statement today in response to news media requests:
The positions attributed to BYU professor Randy Bott in a recent Washington Post article absolutely do not represent the teachings and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. BYU faculty members do not speak for the Church. …
The Church’s position is clear—we believe all people are God’s children and are equal in His eyes and in the Church. We do not tolerate racism in any form.
For a time in the Church there was a restriction on the priesthood for male members of African descent. It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago. Some have attempted to explain the reason for this restriction but these attempts should be viewed as speculation and opinion, not doctrine. The Church is not bound by speculation or opinions given with limited understanding.
We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.
Posted 29 FEBRUARY 2012, Source: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/racial-remarks-in-washington-post-article
The church that’s allegedly the only one true church guided by revelation directly from God doesn’t know why it contained a racist policy for over a hundred years?
The “Some [who] have attempted to explain the reason for [the priesthood] restriction” would not include the 1951 First Presidency statements above, for it acts as official LDS doctrine. So who is the Newsroom referring to, and what speculation is it refuting?
Keep in mind as well that the Newsroom statement of February 2012 was based on a request from News Media and to my knowledge was not an official First Presidency statement. It appears to be a Public Relations statement. Keep in mind that in the 1800s the LDS church published a statement in the D&C that they were monogamous while privately practicing polygamy. Also, the Newsroom statement did not repudiate the seed of Cain dogma in any way. The last sentence, “We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church” would mean the LDS church is condemning their own prophets and apostles from Brigham Young onward who perpetuated racist teachings. However, the Newsroom statement does not clarify whether or not the doctrine of the seed of Cain is considered racist by the LDS church. Thus, it says just enough to provide some “damage control” without rejecting official church doctrine that was taught for over a hundred years: that blacks were cursed with a black skin because of being the seed of Cain.
The LDS Newsroom also has a page called OFFICIAL STATEMENT: Race and the Church: All Are Alike Unto God, which doesn't clarify or repudiate anything specifically, but does say:
Recently, the Church has also made the following statement on this subject:
“The origins of priesthood availability are not entirely clear. Some explanations with respect to this matter were made in the absence of direct revelation and references to these explanations are sometimes cited in publications. These previous personal statements do not represent Church doctrine.”
Source: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/race-church, March 2012.
This statement is ambiguous enough to mean anything. What are these "explanations" and who made these "personal statements" that are not doctrinal? We are not told. What this Newsroom statement does not say is that the official First Presidency statements of 1949 and 1951 are in error; for the LDS church teaches that the First Presidency declares official church doctrine. Thus the official statements of the First Presidency would not be what the Newsroom calls "explanations ... cited in publications ... [as mere] personal statements."
Thus the church is trying to reject racism publicly while official statements from previous LDS prophets and apostles are racist. Instead of the church presenting an official apology and repudiating the seed of Cain doctrine stated in 1949 and 1951, Mormon leaders refer to the 1978 Declaration and rely on black Latter day Saints like Marvin Perkin who say things like:
“In 1847 Brigham Young made the first statements that the Church would stop giving priesthood to Blacks, despite that fact that the Lord commanded Joseph Smith to give priesthood to all who would embrace the gospel. From that time, Blacks have been maligned, from our contribution in the pre-existence, our reasons for being on earth, our skin color, character, lineage, noses etc. Then in 1978, when the Latter-day Saints were sufficiently believing all that they’d been taught over the 131 year span, the restriction is removed, yet none of the false teachings have ever been addressed. It’s the equivalent of tearing down the Berlin Wall, but never cleaning up the debris, allowing it to become a stumbling block for millions trying to come into or remain in the Church.” Source: 12 Questions for Marvin Perkins, Part Four, Wednesday, May 27, 2009; http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2009/05/12-questions-for-marvin-perkins-part-four/
Now if the LDS church hired a PR consultant with no scruples they’d probably say to just say to the public, “we don’t know why we banned a group of people from full fellowship due to their lineage.” This is exactly what the church is now doing. The PR consultant would probably then encourage the leadership and membership to “bury the past,” or as the late church leader Hinkley put it, try not to worry about the “flicks of history,” and say “it’s behind us.” See vide below:
And low and behold that is what we see unfolding before our eyes. As one blogger writes:
[Bott’s] comments shocked many BYU students when the story began to be shared on Facebook and Twitter, with many claiming in disbelief that Bott must have been misquoted. Other students, however, claim that Bott has taught similar ideas in his religion classes. Bott is one of BYU’s most popular professors and is the top-rated professor of any university on RateMyProfessor.com. (Update: In an e-mail on Wednesday, Bott apologized for the way the comments appeared in the article and claims his views were not “accurately reported” and that in the past he has attempted to be careful “not to perpetuate these myths.” Bott reiterated that he does not know why blacks were not given the priesthood until 1978. However, Bott wrote a blog post in 2008 where he repeated essentially the same ideas as in the WaPo article, so it is unclear exactly how he claims he was misrepresented. The blog was taken offline sometime today.)
If you’ve read my blog post Rewriting History, Dishonest Advertising, False Propaganda, & the Sin of Omission in Mormonism, you’ll understand why I am not surprised by the above; for this apparent cover up and “lying for the Lord” is all too typical in Mormonism.
According to Wikipedia, in response to black members asking the LDS church to repudiate the racist doctrine, “Hinckley, [in the mid 1990s], told the Los Angeles Times ‘The 1978 declaration speaks for itself ... I don't see anything further that we need to do’. Church leadership did not issue a repudiation.” [Footnote reads: Ostling, Richard and Joan (1999). Mormon America. Harper Collins. pp. 103–104.]. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_people_in_Mormon_doctrine#Calls_for_official_repudiation_of_past_doctrines (March, 2012).
For their part many LDS apologists have tried to deny the official statements by the First Presidency that blacks are seed/lineage of Cain. On the website fair.org we read, “throughout the history of the Church [some] have assumed that the reason for the ban must be that blacks were the cursed seed of Cain, and therefore not allowed the priesthood (usually stemming from a misreading of Abraham 1)” (Source: http://en.fairmormon.org/Blacks_and_the_priesthood/The_%22curse_of_Cain%22_and_%22curse_of_Ham%22, March 2012).
This is an odd statement, since even David O McKay (whom LDS apologists like to quote frequently on this topic) stated that, "I know of no scriptural basis for denying the Priesthood to Negroes other than one verse in the Book of Abraham (1:26); however, I believe, as you suggest that the real reason dates back to our pre-existant life" (Mormonism and the Negro, part 2, p. 19). Source: http://www.utlm.org/onlinebooks/changech10a.htm.
The History of the Church, often quoted at church and in Mormon homes, states:
"The Book of Abraham is rich both in doctrine and in historical incidents. Of the latter the fact of the large influence (if not identity) of Egyptian religious ideas in Chaldea in the days of Abraham is established; the descent of the black race (Negro) from Cain, the first murderer; the preservation of that race through the flood by the wife of Ham--"Egyptus," which in the Chaldean signifies "Egypt," "which signifies that which is forbidden"--the descendants of "Egyptus" were cursed as pertaining to the priesthood--that is, they were barred from holding that divine power; the origin also of the Egyptians--these things, together with the account of Abraham migrating from Chaldea to Egypt, constitute the chief historical items that are contained in the book.
- Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol.2, Ch.47, Pg.128. Source of quote: http://mormonthink.com/blackweb.htm#doctrine.
The official doctrine of the LDS church is that the Book of Abraham gave a scriptural basis for the policy. For the church writes in one of their official manuals, in discussing Declaration 2 of 1978, that: “Historical Background [for Official Declaration 2, is that…] From the dispensation of Adam until the dispensation of the fulness of times, there has been a group of people who have not been allowed to hold the priesthood of God. The scriptural basis for this policy is Abraham 1:21–27. The full reason for the denial has been kept hidden by the Lord, and one is left to assume that He will make it known in His own due time. On 1 June 1978 the Savior revealed to President Spencer W. Kimball that the ban on this lineage pertaining to the rights of the priesthood was lifted” (Doctrine and Covenants Institute Student Manual. Prepared by the Church Educational System Published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Salt Lake City, Utah … Second edition © 1981, 2001; web link: http://institute.lds.org/manuals/doctrine-and-covenants-institute-student-manual/dc-in-131-od2.asp, March 2012). Notice that it says that the "ban on this lineage pertaining to the rights of the priesthood was lifted", thus the lineage of Cain remains church doctrine as McConkie taught above.
Some Mormon apologists even say the priesthood ban had nothing to do with race. But according to the Gospel Study page at lds.org we read: “Before that time [i.e. before Official Declaration 2 of 1978] only worthy male members who were not of black African descent were ordained to the priesthood. … With the revelation to President Kimball in 1978, the priesthood is now available to all worthy male members regardless of race or ethnicity (see Official Declaration 2). ” (Source: Priesthood Ordination before 1978; online at http://www.lds.org/study/topics/priesthood-ordination-before-1978?lang=eng, March 2012).
This LDS webpage above links to a talk by Gordon B. Hinckley who states: “for many years during the history of the Church [prior to 1978], the priesthood was withheld from many worthy men because of their lineage. … [after 1978] Gone is every element of discrimination. Extended is every power of the priesthood of God” (Priesthood Restoration by President Gordon B. Hinckley. First Counselor in the First Presidency. An edited version of a talk given 15 May 1988 at the Churchwide fireside commemorating the 159th anniversary of the restoration of the priesthood.)
Thus, all the data above in this blog post reveals that the priesthood ban was (according to official LDS doctrine):
1) A direct commandment from God and an official doctrine.
2) It was based on race in denying the priesthood to the lineage of Cain.
3) The scriptural basis for it was Abraham 1:21–27.
4) The doctrine and policy can be understood by understanding the preexistence doctrine which teaches that our actions in the pre-existence affects one’s position on earth and the “Negro is punished or allotted to a certain position on this earth, not because of Cain's transgression, but came to earth through the loins of Cain because of his failure to achieve other stature in the spirit world" (First Presidency, 1951).
5) It is not known “specifically” why God withheld the priesthood to the lineage of Cain until 1978. In other words, it is not know what their "failure" was "to achieve other stature in the spirit world," and it is "unknown" why those of black African descent were singled out for being denied the priesthood for over a hundred years.
Just as polygamy as a practice and policy was stopped but the doctrine remains, so to the practice and policy of denying the so called seed of Cain has stopped but the doctrine of the seed of Cain remains. So it appears that the LDS church is doing what it has always done, keep a doctrine held in private among believing insiders while denying or covering it up in public. We see this with the church and polygamy. Church leaders condemn it publicly as Gordon B. Hinckley did on Larry King, while a Mormon man can be “sealed” to two women in the temple as long as he is only married to only one woman civilly; and LDS apologists declare that polygamy is essential to the highest degree of heaven and D&C 132 is part of the LDS scriptural cannon. Church leaders, members, and missionaries talk to the public as if Mormons believe in only one God using traditional Protestant language in referring to the Godhead, while in private members know they believe in “the Gods” plural, as it states in the temple and the Pearl of Great Price. And so it is with the doctrine of the seed of Cain: as the LDS church publicly diverts the issue pointing to the 1978 Declaration, informed LDS insiders know that the official statements by the First Presidency endorsing the seed of Cain doctrine have never been repudiated. Thus the error that Bott made was to speak publicly about a doctrine only LDS insiders should know about. If the LDS church was really concerned about the issue they would have never allowed books like Mormon Doctrine to remain in circulation even until now. Although, after all the bad publicity I predict that McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine will be seen less and less of.
With all the media attention the LDS Church is in a bind. Most members, and probably most church leaders at the local level, don’t read the original statements on African Americans taught by early church apostles and prophets before 1978. So they remain ignorant of it and probably think the 1978 Declaration clears up all the mess. We have seen in this blog post that is not the case; and Bott’s actions are further evidence of this. Meanwhile, those like Bott who were raised on the seed of Cain dogma before 1978, and those who stumble upon the official statements by LDS leaders today, often start voicing these views as it is un-repudiated doctrine!
What compassionate and informed Mormons, who personally reject the seed of Cain doctrine, can do to keep their other fellow Mormons from perpetuating this racist doctrine is unclear. How do you erase the past in the era of the internet? Should they throw out every LDS book written before 1978 even if it was written by an LDS apostle or prophet when it will still be available on the web? Keep in mind that the 1978 Declaration failed to repudiate the seed of Cain doctrine. So should they ignore the official statements from the First Presidency in 1949, 1951, and 1969, quoted above that declare the doctrine of the seed of Cain? Or perhaps they should campaign to have the racist seed of Cain officially repudiated (which I promote)? Howerver, if official doctrine declared by the First Presidency is renounced does that mean that official statements by the First Presidency can’t be trusted? Isn’t the overturning of the priesthood ban itself an official statement from the First Presidency?
For a Mormon perspective on this issue, see Dispelling the Myth of the “Curse of Cain” by LDS member Mike Parker, posted February 28th, 2012. Of course, if this article is correct then that would mean, based on the evidence in my post above, that Mormonism taught “folklore” as official church doctrine for over a hundred years and still does today in official teachings.
Also see blacksinthescriptures.com, a project by some African American Mormons who completely re-interpret LDS scripture from how it was interpreted in the past. I haven’t seen the DVDs sold by this website but I’ve heard on the web that they argue for, among other things, a "black Jesus" which would mean the LDS church’s depiction of Jesus as basically a "white guy" is all wrong as well.
After this blog post was published, in 2013 an Ensign article titled Race and the Priesthood, was published on lds.org that basically blames the priesthood ban on Brigham Young, and finally repudiated the seed of Cain dogma by stating: "Today, the [Mormon] Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form."