The church claims in their Gospel Topic Essay on Race and the Priesthood that Brigham Young announced the “policy” to deny priesthood to blacks and that he also said that “at some future day, black Church members would “have [all] the privilege and more” enjoyed by other members”. This is incredibly misleading. They want to present the idea like it was prophesied by Brigham Young that the ban would be lifted by the church leaders once the time is right. They take a fragment of a sentence from his speech and ignore the complete racist rhetoric that both of his speeches (and all of his other discourses) are dripping with. He is not open to the idea of giving the priesthood to blacks. He makes it very very clear in these same speeches that “we must believe in slavery,” he is a “firm believer in slavery.” He says that the “Black African” “cannot share in the Priesthood” and “I know it is right” because “they are not capable of ruling themselves”. He continues to state that he is “firm in the belief that they ought to dwell in servitude” and that in “wholesome servitude” or slavery “he is much better off than if he was free.” And these are just a sampling from his shorter speech!
The Gospel Topic Essay: Race and the Priesthood
In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood, though thereafter blacks continued to join the Church through baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Following the death of Brigham Young, subsequent Church presidents restricted blacks from receiving the temple endowment or being married in the temple. Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church…
In 1850, the U.S. Congress created Utah Territory, and the U.S. president appointed Brigham Young to the position of territorial governor. Southerners who had converted to the Church and migrated to Utah with their slaves raised the question of slavery’s legal status in the territory. In two speeches delivered before the Utah territorial legislature in January and February 1852, Brigham Young announced a policy restricting men of black African descent from priesthood ordination. At the same time, President Young said that at some future day, black Church members would “have [all] the privilege and more” enjoyed by other members.Gospel Topic Essay: Race and the Priesthood
It suggests that this was a “policy” from the beginning but in fact, it was spoken of as a doctrine of the church for over a hundred years. The church claims today that it was never official doctrine, but it was spoken about by church leaders from the pulpit as doctrine and is canonized in scripture that dark skin is a curse from God. Brigham Young was not wishing for the day when the priesthood ban would be lifted as they suggest in the quote. He was firmly stating that blacks would receive the priesthood at the end of times. After all other people had. For the church essay to quote him twice as saying they would receive the blessings and privilege “in some future day” is dishonest and misleading. The church is spreading propaganda and lies about its own history in order to make the topic easier to swallow and be faith-promoting. The only way they can spin this history and keep it faith-promoting is to change it from being history to being propaganda. They change the historical facts into their own fictional fantasy version and teach it as doctrine and reality.
Also, many like to excuse church leaders for being “men of their times”, but how does that make sense when we have real heroes who are contemporaries of these same time frames? What about Abraham Lincoln, for example, compared to Brigham Young, both men from the same times but had wildly different views on race? The “men of their times” argument falls flat when we see examples of contemporary men doing things we can still find honorable today.
In his second speech to the legislature the Gospel Topic Essay refers to is also filled with more racist sentiment and hate speech. He explains what he calls the doctrine that Cain and his seed were cursed with a ban from the priesthood and given a mark. “What is that mark? You will see it on the countenance of every African you ever did see upon the face of the earth, or ever will see… If there never was a prophet or apostle of Jesus Christ who spoke it before, I tell you, the people that are commonly called negroes are the children of old Cain. I know they are, I know that they cannot bear rule in the priesthood.” He also explains he can do nothing about the curse, because it is up to God, but he does explain that “the Lord told Cain that he should not receive the blessings of the priesthood nor his seed, until the last of the posterity of Able had received the priesthood, until the redemption of the earth.” What is the redemption of the earth? That would be the millennium and the second coming of Jesus. He foretells that the priesthood ban will never be lifted until Jesus comes and does it himself. He also explains the evils of interracial marriage or “mingle our seed”, and that if the church were to “declare that it is right,” the priesthood would be taken from the church and the “church must go to destruction.”
So, what did Brigham Young actually say in these barely referenced speeches to the Utah Territorial Legislature? See for yourself, the following are the full contents of both speeches.
Brigham Young Says “We Must Believe in Slavery”
First up, the speech by Governor Brigham Young in the Joint Session of the Legislature on Friday, 23 January 1852. Here he is giving counsel on a bill in relation to African slavery and whether settlers coming from southern states with slaves would be allowed to legally keep their slaves in Utah.
I have this section in my hand, headed “An Act in Relation to African Slavery.” I have read it over and made a few alterations. 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.
Now to the case before us with regard to slavery, with regard [to] slaves that [are] Africans, or that are English, or that [are] Dutch, or ourselves—I go in for making just such laws as we want upon that matter, independent of any other nation under the heavens; let us do that [which will bring about what] we want to be done regardless of the abuses of despotic governments. Whether they deem it to be right or wrong is no matter to me, but to do the thing we ought to do, to secure those blessings we are in pursuit of, ought to be the first and most weighty consideration with us; that is my mind upon this matter. This case comes up and causes feelings of not a pleasing character in the minds of some.
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 humbly 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 are concerned, the Black African has precisely the same privilege as the white man. But they cannot 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.” We are servants, as Counselor George Smith has stated; he says he is a slave; he has been driven from his home and his rights—we are all servants. Now 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 loathe the abuses to which the slave in a great many instances is exposed, although as a general thing that part of the Negro race that are in servile bondage, are much more comfortable and better provided for than the lower classes of the nations of Europe.
Though the enlightened nation, England, has abolished slavery in her colonies, yet the most damnable slavery exists at the very heart of the nation. I am bold to say that you cannot find a Black man or woman in the United States that has traveled through the period of his life in hunger in the midst of plenty. Yet there are millions upon millions in the cities of Europe who have lived amidst the choicest luxuries of life and died at last in starvation; thousands died of starvation in England the year that I was in that country. That is meaner slavery than to set them to work in growing cotton and sugar, etc. I would not wish to go to the enlightened nation of England to know what slavery is because they are so far sunken in iniquity and so deeply degraded. People contend about it to know what it is; we know it exists, and such a thing shall and will exist until the Lord God shall remove it; until then it will and ought to exist. There are many brethren in the South, a great amount of whose means is vested in slaves. Those servants want to come here with their masters; when they come here, the Devil is raised. This one is talking, and that one is wondering. A strong abolitionist feeling has power over them, and they commence to whisper round their views upon the subject, saying, “Do you think it’s right? I am afraid it is not right.” 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.
When the Lord God cursed old Cain, He said, “Until the last drop of Abel’s blood receives the Priesthood, and enjoys the blessings of the same, Cain shall bear the curse;” then Cain is calculated to have his share next and not until then; consequently, I am firm in the belief that they ought to dwell in servitude.
The caption of this bill I don’t like, I have therefore taken the liberty to alter it. I have said, “An Act in Relation to Manual Service,” instead of “African Slavery.” I have also altered the latter part of it. I am willing the bill should be thrown back to be remodeled.
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.
Suppose I am in England and bring over 100 persons, males and females, and they pledge themselves to pay me in labor, but as soon as they arrive here they refuse to abide by their contract and turn around and abuse their benefactors. See the abuse that Dan Jones has received, who prevailed upon Sister Lewis to spend almost every dime she possessed to help individuals to this place; they curse both her and him and this they will continue to do, waxing worse and worse until they go down to hell (I say they ought to be her servants). Many more such cases could be brought to bear. There should be a law to govern this, that those who have made contracts to labor, they may perform their labors according to said contracts.Brigham Young: We Must Believe in Slavery (23 January 1852), noted by George D Watt Romney
Brigham Young Explains Racist Doctrines Further
Then, the following month Brigham Young addressed the Legislature again while they were still debating the laws they should create regarding slavery. He seems less interested in slavery and more interested in not allowing any black Africans to have any power in the church, since he can’t stand the thought of any black having any authority over him, especially in a spiritual setting.
Here are his remarks in full, taken from the transcript/notes of the meeting. I’ve done my best to read the handwriting of the day and combine my best guesses with the best guess of others in some situations, even if a few words are incorrect, the sentiment of his message is crystal clear.
I rise to make a few remarks. The items before the house I do not understand.
The principle of slavery I understand, at least I have self-confidence enough, and confidence enough in God to believe I do. I believe still further that a great many others understand it as I do. A great portion of this community has been instructed, and has applied their minds to it, and as far as they have, they agree precisely in the principles of slavery. My remarks in the first place will be upon the cause of the introduction of slavery. Long ago mama Eve our good old mother Eve partook of the forbidden fruit and this made a slave of her. Adam hated very much to have her taken out of the Garden of Eden, and now our old daddy says I believe I will eat of the fruit and become a slave too. This was the first introduction of slavery upon this earth; there has been not a son or daughter of Adam from that day to this but what were slaves in the true sense of the word.
That slavery will continue, until there is a people raised up upon the face of the earth who will contend for righteous principles, who will not only believe in but operate, with every power and faculty given to them to help to establish the kingdom of God, to overcome the devil, and drive him from the earth, then will this curse be removed. This was the starting point of slavery. Again after Adam and Eve partook of the curse, we find they had two sons Cain and Able, but which was the oldest I cannot positively say; but this I know, Cain was given more to evil practices than Abel, but whether he was the oldest or not matters not to me. Adam was commanded to sacrifice, and offer up his offerings to God, which placed him in the Garden of Eden. Through the faith and obedience of Able to his heavenly father, Cain became jealous of him, and he laid a plan to obtain all his flocks; for through his perfect obedience to father he obtained more blessings than Cain; consequently, he took it into his heart to put Able out of this mortal existence. After the deed was done, the Lord enquired to Able and made Cain own what he had done with him. Now says the grandfather I will not destroy the seed of Michal and his wife; and Cain I will not kill you, nor suffer anyone to kill you, but I will put a mark upon you. What is that mark? You will see it on the countenance of every African you ever did see upon the face of the earth, or ever will see. Now I tell you what I know; when the mark was put upon Cain, Abels’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 Able had received the priesthood, until the redemption of the earth. If there never was a prophet or apostle of Jesus Christ who spoke it before, I tell you, the people that are commonly called negroes are the children of old Cain. I know they are, 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 comes when that curse should be wiped off.
Now then in the kingdom of God on the earth, a man who has African blood in him cannot hold one jot nor title 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 the says he will have it taken away. That time will come when they will have the privilege of all we have the privilege of and more. In the kingdom of God on earth, the Africans cannot hold one particle of power in Government. The subjects, the rightful servants of the residue of the children of Adam, and the residue of the children through the benign influence of the Spirit of the Lord have the privilege of seeing to the posterity of Cain; inasmuch as 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 no power on earth to give them any more power.
You talk of the dark skin, I never saw a white man on earth. I have seen persons whose hair came pretty nigh being white, but to talk about white skins it is something entirely unknown, though some skins are fairer than others; look at the black eye and the jet black hair, we often see upon men and women who are called white, there is no such things as white folks. We are the children of Adam, who receive the blessings, and that is enough for us if we are not quite white.
But let me tell you further. Let my seed mingle with the seed of Cain, 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 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 mother 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.
I will add one thing more. It is not in the power of a man on the face of the earth to take more life than he can give, that is a proper son of Adam. How many times I have heard it said, and how many times has it been reiterated in my ears, and in yours, that to take a life, is to take what you cannot give; This is perfect nonsense; What do I do by taking a mans head off after he is condemned by the Law? I put an end to the existence of the mortal tabernacle, but the life still remains. The body and the spirit are only separated, this is all that can be done by any mortal man upon the face of the earth. Can I give that life? I can, I can make as good tabernacles as any other man, if you do not believe it go and look at my children, therefore that saying is nonsense. We form the tabernacle for the eternal spirit or life that comes from God. We can only put an end to the existence of that tabernacle, and this is the principle of sacrifice.
What was the cause of the ancients drawing up hundreds and thousands of bullocks, heifers, lambs, doves, and almost every other creature around them, of which they took the best and the fattest, and offered them up as sacrifices unto the Lord? Was it not for the remission of the sins of the people? We read also in the New Testament that a man was sacrificed for the sins of the people. If he had not, you and I could have had no remission of sins. It is the greatest blessing that could come to some men to shed their blood on the ground, and let it come up before the Lord as an atonement. You nor I cannot take any more life than we can give.
Again to the subject before us; 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 their own transgressions, and I cannot help it; and should you or I bear rule we ought to do it with dignity and honor before God.
I am as much opposed to the principle of slavery as any man in the present acceptation or usage of the term, 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. Under these circumstances, their blessings in life are greater in proportion than those who have to provide bread and dinner for them.
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 Cannan, 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. Let this Church which is called the kingdom of God on the earth; we will summon the First Presidency, the Twelve, the High Counsel, the Bishopric, and all the Elders of Isreal, suppose we summon 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.
Therefore I will not consent for one moment to have an African dictate me nor my brethren with regard to Church or State Government. I may vary in my views 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 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?
The Government Affairs of States, 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, I shall not consent for a moment to give way to a Gentile Spirit of contention, which is the cause of angry bitterness and the alienations of every good feeling. It is for you and I to take a course, to bind our feelings together in an everlasting bond of union inasmuch as we love the Lord, which we ought to do more than ourselves. Consequently, 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 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”. My mind is the same today as when we were poring over that constitution; any light upon the subject is the same, and 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, 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 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 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 thousand of them come from the Pacific Islands, and ten or fifteen thousand from Japan, or from China, not one soul 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.
What the Gentiles are doing we are consenting to do. What we are trying to do today is to make the Negro equal with us in all our privileges. My voice shall be against all the day long. I shall not consent for one moment for this council to lay a plan to bring a curse upon this people. I shall not while I am here.Brigham Young, 1852 February 5
What Does It Say?
What does it say that a “founding father” of the Mormon religion was so racist in his views? What does it say that he declared these views to be doctrine even while the church today lies to dismiss them as simply “theories” so they can declare the socially acceptable “church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.” This is their blanket statement to declare that they condemn racism, but they omit the fact that they are condemning their very founders! That’s not how these declarations work. What does it say about the church that they still today do not squarely face their racist history? What does it say that they’d rather lie and make empty blanket statements rather than actually apologize?
They urge church members to “root out racism” today, but do they lead by example? Hardly! The church covers up and lies to keep members uninformed about racist church foundations and doctrines. The Book of Mormon is still littered with references to the curse of dark skin! The church has a real infallibility complex and thinks it can do no wrong because they are led by God. They act like they are perfect, though they tell us that leaders make mistakes. They tell us we can’t criticize the leaders and shouldn’t talk about the mistakes or the messy history. They think it is detrimental to faith. They don’t seem to understand that lying is more detrimental to faith.
How do the racist church teachings of the past sit with you? How does the whitewashed church history sit with you? How do the racist church teachings of today sit with you? Was it an issue on your shelf? Tell your faith deconstruction story at wasmormon.org today!
- The Mormon Church Published The Gospel Topic Essays
- The Lowry Nelson Letters and Racist Mormon Doctrine
- Mormons and the NAACP – Blacks and the Priesthood
- Russell Nelson to receive the Gandhi-King-Mandela Peace Prize