W. Paul Reeve on Race and the Priesthood

The race-based priesthood and temple ban that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had in place from the 1850s until 1978 is a heavy, but important subject to study. I’ve shared a review about W. Paul Reeve’s recently-released Let’s Talk About Race and Priesthood where I stated that it was one of “the best and most important entries in a fantastic series”, and I stand by that statement. Recently, W. Paul Reeve shared some of the insights he has gained from his research on the topic of race and the priesthood in an interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk. What follows here is a co-post to that interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion).

W. Paul Reeve describes the history of the race-based priesthood and temple ban as a three-stage arc. In the interview he stated that:

The book is divided into three phases which lay out the chronological history of the racial priesthood and temple restrictions as I have come to understand them:

Phase 1. In phase one there were no restrictions. Priesthood and temples were open to people of all races and ethnicities. In fact the First Presidency published an article in the Nauvoo newspaper in 1840 announcing their intent to welcome “persons of all languages, and of every tongue, and of every color” into the temple that they would start to build the following spring.

Phase 2. Sadly, that open racial vision gave way in fits and starts in phase two to segregated priesthood and temples.

Phase 3. In phase three, the June 1978 revelation ushered in a return to racial inclusivity and restored the Church to its universal roots.

His description is very well-rooted in the documented history of the subject, though the idea that phase 2 is something that came because of human failures is likely to be something that many Latter-day Saints struggle with (though, as I’ve talked about before, I strongly believe that the priesthood and temple ban was an error on the part of humans).

The ban only solidified gradually as well. President Brigham Young seems to have been the key mover in implementing the ban, and he did so for a couple reasons. As W. Paul Reeve explained:

On December 3, 1847, in a meeting at Winter Quarters, Brigham Young learned of two Black Latter-day Saint men who had married white women and thereafter shifted his open racial perspective.

Brigham spoke out stridently against race mixing; he even advocated capital punishment as the penalty. By 1852 he openly articulated a racial priesthood restriction and did so in conjunction with ongoing preaching against race mixing. . . .

The curse of Cain was Brigham Young’s explanation for the racial restrictions. He suggested that because Cain killed his brother Abel, all of Abel’s children (who he presumed to be white people) would need to receive the priesthood before any of Cain’s descendants (who he presumed to be Black people) could receive the priesthood.

It was a violation of the Second Article of Faith because Brigham Young held the supposed descendants of Cain responsible for a murder in which they took no part. . . . [This and another] explanations were disavowed in 2013 by the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

Thus, based on the records we have, Brigham Young’s primary motivations seem to have centered on interracial children and an explanation created from the story of Cain. Because of this, he articulated the policy, officially beginning in 1852.

From there, subsequent presidents solidified the ban:

The restrictions were not firmly in place at Brigham Young’s first utterance. Each succeeding generation of leaders were unwilling to violate the precedent established under Brigham Young, even though Young’s precedent violated the open racial policies established under Joseph Smith.

Joseph F. Smith solidified the restrictions in place in the first decade of the twentieth century when he erased from collective Latter-day Saint memory the original Black priesthood holders.

With that erasure taking place in the early 1900s, the ban was solidified in Church policy and collective memory of the Church as being absolute.

Things eventually began to change, however. President Spencer W. Kimball, who would announce the ban’s end in 1978, sought long and hard for revelation on the subject:

President Spencer W. Kimball studied the issue out in his mind, learned the history of the restrictions for himself, and sought new sources of information. He studied the scriptures and, according to his son Edward Kimball, he concluded that the restrictions “did not come from explicit scriptures but rather from interpretations by various Church leaders.”

He fasted, prayed, sought inspiration in the temple, and laid the groundwork for consensus among senior Church leaders. The lack of consensus among leaders had prevented change in the past and President Kimball recognized the need for consensus as an important component in moving forward.

With that revelation and the resulting Official Declaration 2, the ban was lifted.

Now, one area that came up in the comments over at From the Desk was about David O. McKay’s considerations of lifting the ban. As Nathan Whilk asked: “How do the statements by President David O. McKay that were reported in his biography by Greg Prince fit into your narrative?” W. Paul Reeve doesn’t address that in the interview, but I can offer my perspective here:

A few events in church history, however, complicate the issue. Both President David O. McKay and President Harold B. Lee both sincerely prayed to know if God wanted the ban to be lifted in the decades prior to 1978. Some have brushed off David O. McKay’s seeking for a revelation as a simple failure to discern the divine will on the matter (and, frankly, Harold B. Lee was biased against an answer of lifting the ban). Others dismiss the accounts as late, second-hand recollections on an emotionally-charged subject, and therefore not reliable as historical sources. These reports of church leaders seeking to lift the ban complicate the picture of God’s involvement in the ban, though, and I’m not settled on an answer as to what they mean.

So, ways in which those statements fit into the narrative are complicated, but likely would be related to pointing out that they may not be accurate. Again, this is my perspective and not W. Paul Reeves’s.

Of course, there is always more work to do, even with the ban being lifted. As Reeve noted:

Latter-day Saints have been directed by two members of the First Presidency to “root out racism.” In my estimation it is impossible to root out racism without examining its roots. History is thus a valuable way for Latter-day Saints to learn what racism looked like in the past so we can better understand its consequences in the present and help shape a more just and equitable future.

History is valuable in allowing us to understand more completely the choices–for good and bad–of the past and how we can do better in the present and future.

For more on the race-based temple and priesthood ban, head on over for the full interview with W. Paul Reeve. It has more insights, including stories from the lives of Black Latter-day Saints, and insights that were published in the book for the first time.

24 comments for “W. Paul Reeve on Race and the Priesthood

  1. I taught the Relief Society lessons when we studied “The Lives of The Prophets” years ago.

    Because Brigham Young was Prophet for such a long time it took two years to cover him.

    The lessons were made up of phrases and sentences, which were cherry picked and made these men out to be wise and strong and very spritual.

    Especialy Brigham Young which many called “The Lion of God”.

    A few years ago I decided to once again try to read his Journal of Discourses. I had tried to read them over 40 years ago as a young convert but was bewildered and decided I was not spiritually or mentally mature enough to understand them.

    As I read them this time I was shocked, they are a garbled ramble of sometimes just nonsense.

    BY tries to make factual claims that are so bizarre I can not belive that the members of the church at the time did not rise up and throw him out.

    I asked my husband to read them because I wanted his opinion.

    Was I wrong? He was also very surprised and thought that Young had mental problems.

    I am a bit surprised that our church allows these writings to be up and easily accessable to any one and every one.

    And I encourage others to read these things. Read them before you are not allowed to.

  2. I think one fact (as I understand it) is crucial — but often not mentioned — when the First Presidency and the Twelve met on that day in 1978, two of the Twelve were absent: Delbert Stapley was in the hospital and Mark E. Petersen was on assignment in Argentina. If either of those two had been present, perhaps the unanimity required for revelation would have been missing (we know that both if these men supported the ban and opposed changing it) — but with their absence, there was unanimity and the revelation came.

    If there had been unanimity earlier, maybe the revelation would have come earlier?

    Anyway, after the meeting, someone was assigned to visit Elder Stapley in the hospital and to call Elder Petersen in Argentina. The deed already having been done, they both sustained it. I wonder if President Kimball either created or took advantage of the opportunity? Or was it simply fortuitous?

  3. When I was on my Mission in the South (Oklahoma Mission 1975-1977), we were told by the mission president NOT go go into the areas where there were predominately black neighborhoods to proselyte. If they came to us seeking the gospel, we would teach but we were not to seek them out. However I knew in my heart that no one can be denied entrance into the kingdom of heaven regardless of race. I knew then as I know know that errors of the past would be amended and although many were restricted in days past the opportunity of salvation and eternal life could not be hindered for the righteous regardless of the teachings of the the church at the time.
    It is true that blessings were withheld as far as ordinances but as the Lord said, the only sin that is unpardonable is denying the Holy Ghost so even if church policy and not doctrine was sustained according to race, as uninspired,, it could not withhold righteous individuals to enter Paradise and ultimately Eternal Life with Heavenly Father. Those withholding ordinances based on race will held accountable for their actions.But the righteous need not fear the ungodly acts of the uninspired for God is our judge

  4. This is a comment I posted at From the Desk:

    One of the things that seems to be missing in these discussions is an acknowledgement of how different the world truly was–especially prior to World War II. While most folks will acknowledge that Brigham Young was a man of his time, and so forth, what we fail to do is wrestle with the literal impossibility, not only on the part of the church, but on the part of the entire West of fully integrated fellowship with our black brothers and sisters. And so, in my humble opinion, it wasn’t just a matter of church leaders not petitioning the Lord with enough faith and unity that prevented the ban from being lifted sooner than 1978. The fact is that through most of the decades leading up to WWII church leaders did not feel impelled to seek the Lord’s counsel on the subject–at least not to the same degree that leaders would feel after WWII. And not simply because there weren’t enough external pressures to bring them to their knees–but because of the nature of the prevailing culture at the time. The entire West needed to be cleansed (along with the church) before we could take those steps that would bring our black brothers and sisters into full fellowship.

  5. When David O. McKay sought revelation on the matter, he reportedly received the answer of “not yet.” Some have interpreted this as God endorsing another 15 years of discrimination and, by implication, the previous 110 years. Others have asked what changed God’s mind in the intervening period. I imagine it going down a bit differently.

    McKay: God, can we please lift the ban now?

    God: Not yet.

    McKay: Why not?

    God: Because after you’re gone, your successors will be be Joseph Fielding Smith and Harold B. Lee. Even if you can convince them to go along with lifting the ban now, once they become president, they will undermine it all by introducing ridiculous new restrictions like not allowing men of African descent to serve in a leadership role over white people and stuff like that. Then, we’ll have to play this game all over again. Be patient and I’ll take care of it once they’re gone.

    (No, I don’t believe this conversation literally happened. But pretending that it did seems like the clearest way to make my point. And the idea of a church president deliberately undermining his predecessor should feel familiar to anyone who was ever lured into giving a victory to Satan.)

  6. Last Lemming,

    I agreed with you all the way up to your last remark. I loved President Hinckley’s defense of the term mormon in the 90s and I loved President Nelson’s statement more recently. They can both be true for their time and place.

    But anyway, to build on Jack’s comment, I think it’s helpful context to remember that for the average latter-day saint between 1830-1945 or so, the world was a lot, LOT less racially mixed. While the issues surrounding polygamy were a central part of their lives, the priesthood ban, its effect, its implications, etc was almost an abstract theory. One which it cost nothing to have.

  7. I hate the argument that god somehow had to wait to tell the prophet not to be racist until the time was right. Isn’t the whole point of a prophet to call the world to repentance and to try and get them to change for the better? Instead, according to this apologetic justification, God waited until 1978 to tell the president of the church to do what was right all along.

  8. Derek,

    I was not suggesting that church presidents cannot change their predecessors’ policy. But Kimball managed to do so without throwing Smith and Lee under the bus; that is, by implying that they were tools of Satan. In contrast, the tire tracks are still visible on Hinckley and Monson, however enlightened the policy change may have been. I am suggesting that Smith and Lee would more likely have followed the Nelson route than the Kimball route. Pure speculation, of course.

  9. My theory is that McKay didn’t have a consensus, that he felt that while he could at least hypothetically lift the ban unilaterally, it wouldn’t take. That is, just like after the Manifesto, there would have been Apostles and other leaders going around saying this didn’t mean anything.

    I find it remarkable that President McKay did clarify things a bit: If you were considered white in South Africa, that was good enough, you didn’t have to provide pedigree charts tracing all your ancestry to Europe anymore. Race would not go on membership records. The ban would be enforced locally. If someone was ordained and later found to have African ancestry, he was to be told to not use his priesthood.

    I’m reminded of a man in my ward in Tennessee, who joined before 1978. It took him several years after the ban was lifted to finally accept the priesthood.

    We have to remember that Joseph Smith, for all his faults, was very enlightened for his day. And Brigham Young was sadly typical for his day on these matters.

  10. “Instead, according to this apologetic justification, God waited until 1978 to tell the president of the church to do what was right all along.”

    IMO–the Lord waited until the *world* (including the church) was ready to receive it. If we had tried to set up an integrated society in the early days it would have destroyed the church–much like the destruction that Wilford Woodruff saw (in a vision) if the saints had continued to practice polygamy.

  11. I find this idea that God occasionally “accommodates” the world and/or His people based on what they will accept fascinating. In a 2019 devotional at BYU-Provo, Pres. Nelson claimed that “We may not always tell people what they want to hear. Prophets are rarely popular. But we will always teach the truth!” If @Jack is correct about the primary reason for the implementation and perpetuation of the priesthood and temple ban (and I have no reason to think that he is incorrect), then this statement, at best, requires some kind of asterisk/disclaimer that says something to the effect of, “Except when a false teaching is so wildly popular/unpopular that teaching the truth would be detrimental to God’s people or the church or something. Also note that it won’t always be clear in the moment that God is allowing a false teaching to be implemented or perpetuated.”

    Of course, we always seem to prefer the simple statement as Pres. Nelson explained and almost never mention the disclaimer. If we really believe that this is a part of how God reveals things to prophets (that sometimes He allows popular false teachings to be attributed to Him), then we need to do more, IMO, to include this understanding in how we teach about prophets and scripture and revelation. In the long run, it is going to cause us to look more closely at other things we claim to “know” by revelation. For example, We have long believed that God only wants men to be officially ordained to priesthood offices and that women should not be ordained. What if that teaching is a false teaching that, was so popular for so long that God could not/would not contradict it? On the other hand, what if it is a true teaching, but, as its popularity decreases, will God at some point choose to allow women to be ordained because the popularity of ordaining women becomes too great to ignore?

    As distasteful as the racism and segregation are, the more impactful things that come out of the priesthood and temple ban, IMO, are the things that it teaches us about the nature of prophets and process of revelation between God and the church.

  12. To me this is all a clear case of “speaking for God” or speaking as a president. BY was not even sustained as “prophet. seer, revelator” for many years (I believe 7 years) and was only sustained as the “1st President of the church” meaning JS was the prophet and BY is just the president of the church. I have not read about the event that caused BY to be considered “prophet” yet. Maybe someone here knows. I think we as members have to be careful on what we take as “Gods will” and what a president says/does. For example, there is no way Pres Nelson was good with the Meet the Mormons or I’m a Mormon campaigns that his predecessors did but they did it anyways. Nelson now is doing the same thing, doing what he wants because he can just like those before him did. I cant sit here and think Nelson is right and the others did a victory for satan campaign. Presidents mostly repeat and perpetuate what those before them have done. Some make minor changes and some make lots of changes. I also cant believe that we have a leader that is finally listening to God so these changes can be made. What we can clearly know is that the president can and will do what he wants regardless what the quorum thinks. Sure they may even raise there hand and approve when asked but did Nelson raise his hand in approval with the Mormon campaigns that we spent millions on? Maybe there was no approval needed.

    What else are we just following the past leaders on that were really just like BY and his racial beliefs? When was the last time we were taught that polygamy gets us to the Celestial kingdom? What else will be changed in our temples?

    I dont think women will need to be ordained to perform ordinances. They dont have to be now to go to the temple/do ordinances there, but obviously men do. Just make it an assignment like we did with witnessing a baptism.

    If all else fails, the majority of members will just do whatever the President says/does/changes anyway right?

    My thoughts as to why it was Kimball that made the priesthood ban go away…he seemed to be an advocate for minorities. He was either responsible or instrumental in the creation of the Indian placement program that we did in the 70s. Makes since that it was Kimball that made that long lasting policy go away. Same way it makes sense Nelson has a beef with the word mormon, he always has. How our culture thinks Nelson is right and the 17 “prophets” before him were wrong or not listening is just something I cant buy. But we are all entitled to think whatever. Unless I share my thoughts in quorum, then the stones come out…. :)

  13. MrShorty,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response.

    “If @Jack is correct about the primary reason for the implementation and perpetuation of the priesthood and temple ban (and I have no reason to think that he is incorrect), then this statement, at best, requires some kind of asterisk/disclaimer that says something to the effect of, ‘Except when a false teaching is so wildly popular/unpopular that teaching the truth would be detrimental to God’s people or the church or something. Also note that it won’t always be clear in the moment that God is allowing a false teaching to be implemented or perpetuated.'”

    Two things come to mind: first, the saints regularly concoct all kinds of wonderful ideas about why God does what he does on any number of different subjects–and we end up being wrong about 90% of the time. And second, as far as this particular subject is concerned–it wasn’t really until after WWII that the ban began to emerge as a problem that would require special attention.

    And so while I understand the impulse to put an asterisk at the end of my statement — especially for those of us (nowadays) who have a little hindsight — I’m not sure that it would be much different than putting an asterisk at the end of an hypothetical statement regarding slavery among the saints in ancient times. The cultural mores in those societies — as ungodly as they may have been — were so powerful that they could only be eradicated over time. And so those who were called to lead the church at various times in the past spent most of their strength dealing with problems of the moment–while always hoping for a brighter future to be sure. And it was in dealing with the present that the prophets helped the saints to prepare–over time–for greater blessings in the future.

  14. Is it so hard to understand and acknowledge that the priesthood/temple ban was a human invention? That the 1978 proclamation was also a human act. Is God’s intervention really necessary to undo a human err? Please everyone from throwing God under the bus. The Church needs to get on with the necessary repentance.

    Polygamy was a social experiment initiated by JS. It was a failed social experiment. D&C 132 needs to be edited, removing any endorsement of polygamy. Again we need to quit blaming God for human foibles.

  15. Roger,

    Honest question: Do you believe it was possible for the church (or anyone else for that matter) to build a fully integrated society in those days?

  16. Jack, question. In every one of your comments here, you’ve mentioned the impossibility of “a fully integrated society.” But is that what’s at issue? I can think of a number of other scenarios that don’t involve “full integration”: segregation of members on separate sides of the church pew without a priesthood ban; or a priesthood ban but not a temple ban, or vice versa (Reeves goes to lengths to point out they have two separate origin points in history). The idea that we had to not only segregate, but add a priesthood ban; and not only add a priesthood ban, but a temple ban; and not only do both, but come up with an argument soaked in racism (e.g. BY’s 1852 speech); and all of this AFTER strong evidence that the leaders, including Brigham Young himself, accepted priesthood ordinations for black people? And on top of all this, rewrite history so that the ban was always in place from Joseph Smith’s day? THAT’s what I have a hard time with.

    And so really, I think the idea that we couldn’t have done better than we did is fallacious. Maybe we couldn’t have been fully integrated, but we could have done BETTER. We believe that prophets are fallible, and I think it’s clear that Brigham Young’s fallibility was racism, same as some other prophets were prideful in their particular ways, but still used by God. (Read Brigham Young’s 1852 speech and tell me that’s NOT racism.) But it could have been different, better. Orson Pratt could have won the day with his arguments. Another person (like Pratt or another apostle) could have been prophet, less inclined to racism or speculation; and given how much the saints clinged to the words of the prophet why not think there was at least the chance that a less racist prophet could have helped the saints, if not fully integrate, at least avoid such lengths to justify bans and cloak it in racist language?

    To be clear: I love this church. I believe in prophets. I believe BY was a prophet. I just don’t buy that it couldn’t have been otherwise, that we as a people couldn’t have chosen otherwise, or at least, **BETTER THAN WE DID**. I think it’s better to say we fell short, as a prophet and a people, and acknowledge we’ve repented, or better, that we’re STILL repenting—trying to overcome our racist past, rather than obliterate it.

  17. One more little thing. Jack, you hypothesized that “the entire West needed to be cleansed (along with the church) before we could take those steps that would bring our black brothers and sisters into full fellowship.” I don’t disagree, necessarily, but I guess this idea grates on me. Because on one level, it assumes that the Church partakes in the sins and dysfunctions of the culture, and OF COURSE THAT IS RIGHT. The church is not separate from the culture, it’s part of it.

    But at the same time, I’d like to think that in some areas the church **COULD** speak boldly from a position of having been ALREADY cleansed by Christ’s atonement, and speak truth to power in the culture; that it could be a little ahead of the time. Or said another way: it seems that if we’re not willing to be educated by scripture when we have it, we have to be educated by (or with) the wider culture. I know a lot hinges on whether it’s “by” or “with,” theologically, but I’m speaking more to the net effect. I love the Church. Just wish it could be a little ahead through revelation, instead of having to be (seemingly) dragged into the future.

    (A further aside: I suspect that, to ji’s point above that our institution requires unanimity, this failure to lead may be as much institutional as anything. We may always be more conservative, slower on the up-take because our governing councils require unanimity AND we have the oldest generations leading the church. Whether this particular governance model for leadership, and therefore more reason to fail to “take the lead” is inherent in the Restoration–I don’t know?)

  18. Bryan,

    Thanks for the response. What you say about the possibility of blacks receiving the priesthood but still remaining segregated from whites is, I admit, an approach that might’ve worked for a time. Even so, I have difficulty imagining how such a scenario could not ultimately lead to some degree of integration. The blessings of the temple have a powerful unifying effect upon those who receive them–and it’s difficult for me not to see blacks and whites at some point beginning to mingle as coreligionists and going from there toward a deeper social integration.

    Of course, I could be wrong about all of this. But even so–at least in hypothetical terms–the ban in those days served as a soft barrier to forestall that kind of social integration. And while I’m not an historian (or an expert in anything really) I believe that Reeves might be a little too optimistic in his belief that a segregated temple-going community would have been workable. It might’ve been doable for one generation at best–IMO. But after twenty years or so the saints would have inevitably begun to integrate–and that would’ve caused them no small amount of trouble both from within and without their community. And when I say “trouble” I’m speaking of the real possibility of annihilation.

    All of this may sound a bit goofy–but in own defense the reason for that is because we’re talking about something that was (IMO) a literal impossibility in those days. The world simply wasn’t equipped for such a society. And that’s why we had to wait until after WWII–when integration would at least be placed on the table as a talking point.

  19. @Jack: A clarification. The asterisk was not intended for anything you said. It was intended as a disclaimer on what Pres. Nelson said when he claimed that prophets always speak truth. Clearly prophets don’t ALWAYS speak truth if prophets spoke something that meshed well with the culture around them that we now disavow (as you suggest). You’re right that this seems to be the same kind of thing at play with regard to slavery throughout the Bible (if you haven’t, yet, seen Ben Spackman’s treatment of this issue, I find it very intriguing). How many other issues does it apply to?

  20. Also, one thing I wanted to point out. Jack, you said that: “it wasn’t really until after WWII that the ban began to emerge as a problem that would require special attention.” While that was when society in general began to shift and the Church came under fire, it was still a problem the entire time the ban was in place. Just ask K. Walker Lewis, who left Utah and the Church after the ban was announced, or Jane Manning James and Ejliah Abel, who both begged to receive their temple ordinances. Those might be the best-known stories, but there were many more like theirs that happened and which were brought to the leaders of the Church.

    Another thought that I have with the “we couldn’t do it because we were just like everyone else” idea is that we were just fine fighting tooth and nail to be different than everyone else when it came to polygamy. Why was that the case on that front, but not on race? I would also point out that there were western societies that were much better at integration than the United States at that time (i.e., Brazil), so it wasn’t an impossibility in the world at large to do better.

  21. Thanks for the clarification, MrShorty.

    Yes–if I remember correctly Ben Spackman tries to collapse the distinction between the prophet speaking as a prophet and the prophet speaking as man–or something like that. I’m sure it’s more nuanced than that–but even so, I think there’s something to be said for the fortuitous action of appointing the right person at the right time. That’s revelation in and of itself. And so it’s along those lines of thinking that Brigham Young might have “told the saints the truth” vis-a-vis the ban in general terms while getting the details wrong about the reasoning behind it. The “general terms” being binding upon the church and the “details” not so much.

    I like to think of it in terms of how truth can come to us in rather counterintuitive ways–such that certain events are brought about in ways that almost defy the prophetic explanations given beforehand. Such as the time when my brother’s wife told him that he should move the car away from the corner where he had parked it. It was a snowy day and she feared that someone would try to make the turn there and end up sliding into their car. Well, of course my brother didn’t follow his wife’s advice. He left the car there–and sure enough another car slid into it and left a big dent in the front driver’s side fender. But here’s the thing–the damage was not caused by a car that failed to make the turn onto their street. It was caused by a car backing out of a driveway *across* the street.

    And so, on the one hand we could say that my brother’s wife was totally wrong–that no car lost its traction when turning on to their street that snowy day. And we’d be right on that particular point. But on the other hand, we can’t argue against the fact that their car probably would not have sustained said damage if my brother had just followed his wife’s (counterintuitive) counsel — whatever the reasoning behind it — and just moved the car.

    I believe there can be the same kind of messiness to revelation. The Lord rarely tells us why he wants us to do certain things–only that it’s important that we do them. And it’s in light of how divine counsel often prioritizes *what* we should do over *why* we should do it that I’m open to the idea of ten consecutive presidents of the church being right about this particular issue without necessarily being aware of all the whys and wherefores–and even being wrong about some of them.

  22. Chad,

    Of course you’re right in that the church did have some struggles with the issue before WWII–but nothing that came close to pushing it to the brink of destruction as in Kirtland, Missouri, or Nauvoo. That’s the level of difficulty I’m speaking of.

    Re: the sacrifice we made to practice polygamy: I see that as evidence for what I’m talking about. There were some people who wanted to destroy us from off the face of the earth because of polygamy. And according to Wilford Woodruff the church would have been destroyed had we not ended the practice prior to becoming a state. And so what I’m suggesting is that had we set up an integrated society on top of everything else we were doing our destruction would have been sure.

    That said, IMO, the question really boils down to whether or not allowing blacks to have full access to all the blessings of the priesthood would have led to integration. That’s where the nexus of my argument really is.

    Also, you’re certainly right about Brazil being ahead of the U.S. (and many other places) in terms of racial inclusion. Even so, for purposes know only to the Lord the church was set up in Northern America with the aid of a large influx of European immigrants–most of them British. That was the world that the church had to deal with at the time. And it was a challenging and even frightening world to navigate. The early saints were both bullheaded and brave.

  23. @Dennis. Your “Historical scholarship” has only gotten you so far with this subject which is no further ahead than anyone else. Thanks

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