For some time I’ve been exploring the relationship between scientific, sociological and historical notions of “race” and LDS theology. This has led me into some pretty sketchy church history examinations and evolved into a cathartic look at LDS doctrines regarding “Curse of Cain,” or “Curse of Ham” traditions from Jewish, orthodox or “historical” Christian, and “Mormon” or “Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ” perspectives. This culminated in a series of essays published elsewhere on this site I’ve here called, with tongue firmly in cheek, “Mormonism and the Mythical Curse of Cain.” The summary of which could be:
“Never mind all that stuff about the Negro.”
This casual dismissal of generations of “doctrine” about race and skin color, when proposed as it seems to be, as an “ultimate” answer isn’t very satisfying. Not that is, in terms of clarifying the status of over 160 years of LDS interpretation of a canon that is still current, and still contains numerous passages that imply troublesome conclusions about race and skin color. Nor does it do anything to mitigate what clearly has to be the bigoted mindset of a whole string of “prophets” still billed as “infallible,” inasmuch as at one time they were all in locked harmony, condemning the “Negro” to a lesser pre-mortal and sometimes post-mortal existence on one now admittedly lame “doctrinal” excuse or another. But what this research has really taught me, is that it will be a good long time before the Brethren deem it worthy of their immediate involvement to directly address this whole obvious doctrinal screw-up and put the whole mess of inspirational implications in coherent, justifiable order.
The above map comes from the 1975 Ensign article titled, ” Who and Where Are the Lamanites?” By Lane Johnson. More quotes from the article below.
And the skins of the Lamanites [Native Americans] were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men.
Book of Mormon, Alma, chapter 3, verse 6
After the people again forgot the Lord and dissensions arose, some of them took upon themselves the name Lamanites and the dark skin returned. When the Lamanites fully repent and sincerely receive the gospel, the Lord has promised to remove the dark skin. The Lord declared by revelation that, ‘before the great day of the Lord shall come, Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness, and the Lamanites shall blossom as a rose.’ The dark skin of those who have come into the Church is no longer to be considered a sign of the curse. Many of these converts and delightsome and have the Spirit of the Lord. Perhaps there are some Lamanites today who are losing the dark pigment. Many of the members of the Church among the Catawba Indians of the South could readily pass as of the white race; also in other parts of the South.
Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, v. 3, p. 123, 1953
The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised. In this picture of the twenty Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos; five were darker but equally delightsome. The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation…. At one meeting a father and mother and their sixteen-year-old daughter were present, the little member girl-sixteen sitting between the dark father and mother, and it was evident she was several shades lighter than her parents on the same reservation, in the same Hogan, subject to the same sun and wind and weather. There was the doctor in a Utah city who for two years had had an Indian boy in his home who stated that he was some shades lighter than the younger brother just coming into the program from the reservation. These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and delightsomeness. One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated.
Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, General Conference, Oct. 1960
The Lord has never indicated that black skin came because of being less faithful. Now, the Indian; we know why he has changed, don’t we? The Book of Mormon tells us that; and he has a dark skin, but he has promise there that through faithfulness, that they all again become a white and delightsome people.
Apostle LeGrand Richards, Interview by Wesley P. Walters and Chris Vlachos, Aug. 16, 1978, Church Office Building, available online at: http://www.lds-mormon.com/legrand_richards.shtml
How much, if any of this previous Book of Morman-based understanding of “darkness of skin” cursing remains valid LDS doctrine? (And mind you, this is quite apart from, and a separate doctrinal issue than the “Negro Question.”) It is all apparently cast aside by the new statement on Race and the Priesthood which ostensibly refers to all previous LDS traditions of skin color or racial distinctions as being irrelevant and repudiated as “folk tales,” born of personal ignorance and bigotry. But Book of Mormon and other ostensibly binding and divine canonical references to skin color and “cursings” isn’t addressed at all either there or in any followup statements.
If it is not in the “program” for the “prophet” to lead the church astray, the fact remains that on this one subject, a whole history of “prophets” have done exactly that. Apostle Mark E Peterson, in the quote photographically highlighted just above these paragraphs for example, takes a second or third generation stab at the “Negro,” and claims with all the authority of a “Special Witness of Christ,” that this entire race at best is only eligible to shine shoes and clean toilets in the Celestial Kingdom. That was not down to Brigham Young being the product of 19th century ignorance. That was the stance of the LDS Brethren in 1954 at the swelling height of moral and civil enlightenment in the United States of America now known as the “Civil Rights Movement.”
By not now taking an open, over-the-pulpit stance of condemning this whole train of leadership for lack of “inspiration” if nothing else, at least in this one issue, then current “prophets” are essentially allowing the general membership to fend for themselves until such time as it all blows over–or so they apparently hope. Throwing Brigham Young under the bus and laying all the blame for this 160 year-long “doctrinal” faux pas exclusively upon Young’s personal political biases does nothing whatsoever to excuse the ensuing train of “prophets” who embraced and amplified his now officially confessed false “doctrinal” pronouncements on the subject of race and skin color. More importantly, it does nothing to redeem either Brigham Young or the train of “prophets” who followed him from the charge of falling short of the much-touted promise of Declaration 1, which is so fondly offered by the Brethren to church membership as an absolute guarantee against any one or all of them “leading the church astray.” The current official statement on Race and the Priesthood should, if nothing else, once-and-for all put away the popular notion that there is a Mormon version of papal infallibility that applies universally to all issues, pronouncements, and matters that flow from the lips of church leadership, the “prophet”in particular. It should be apparent that President Woodruff’s Declaration 1 obviously applies as a promise pertaining to the single issue of halting the practice of plural marriage, as clearly implied by the actual text when read in its actual context. The Brethren however, continue to use this promise of absolute fidelity to God’s will in a universal context, on its own, and removed entirely from it’s intended subject matter. This they do, I can only assume, out of a combination of authoritative convenience and the need for ongoing self-validation:
President Wilford Woodruff declared that we can have full confidence in the direction the prophet is leading the Church: “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty” (Official Declaration 1, “Excerpts from Three Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff Regarding the Manifesto”; emphasis added).
President Harold B. Lee taught this same principle: “You keep your eye upon him whom the Lord called, and I say to you now, knowing that I stand in this position, you don’t need to worry about the President of the Church ever leading people astray, because the Lord would remove him out of his place before He would ever allow that to happen” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams , 533).
I’ve dealt with the matter of “papal infallibility” in depth in other essays published on this site so I won’t go here into that whole broad aspect of the current official flipflop on LDS racial “policy,” or “doctrine” on the “Negro Question.” For the purposes of my present musings I’ll simply remind the reader that the terms, “policy” and “doctrine,” or for that matter, anything said or published by the current leadership, in LDS applications are functionally identical and there is no practical difference between them all.
At any rate, it’s not all just going to blow over. “Forget all that Stuff about the Negro” isn’t a magic reset button for the whole love-hate history of Mormonism and the “Negro” and other racial minorities in this “white,” Anglo-Saxon Protestant, American-founded religious endeavor. There’s always somebody, some enemy of the church or some innocent but logical and curious investigator, who’s going to keep on stumbling into it or have it thrown at them in a big messy heap. It’s all on the cloud, and it’s all an anti-Mormonists’ dream. So, I continue to address the issue in my own clumsy way. In this regard, I spent some months recently following the three LDS “black” Facebook groups currently available. I was hoping for insight into “black” LDS concerns about past LDS teachings about race, how it has affected them as “black” investigators or young members, and how they perceive the latest statements about “Race and the Priesthood,” ostensibly the most “authoritative” position of the Brethren on the matter. (Albeit, published as a news release, rather than an official proclamation, signed, read over the pulpit, and headed for canonization.) What I found instead quite took me aback.
For one thing, “black” African American Latter-day Saints seem to know even less about the history of LDS Curse of Cain mythology than “white” Latter-day Saints do. This is particularly true of younger, or newer members. Indeed, they seem to take it as a badge of faith to pretend it doesn’t matter anyway. Ignorance is bliss. There’s a clear sense that if you go poking around in there it’ll only damage your testimony. What you don’t know can’t hurt you. Until it hits you in the face I suppose.
Also, and this is quite unfortunate, African American Saints, by ignoring the long history of specifics in LDS policy/doctrine on the “Negro Question,” are all too subject to being sucked into the prevailing notion outside the church, that Latter-day Saints used to hold all the same views that the KKK or orthodox, “historic” Christianity has held concerning dark skin and the “Negro Question.” The black Saint surely has much to forgive concerning past “policy” and the Brethren’s many now-condemned explorations of Curse of Cain, Curse of Ham theology as represented both in the Bible and the current LDS canon. But the Saints were driven out of Missouri by good “Christians” who called them foul animals and heretics for inviting “free Negroes” to move in, work, live, and worship with them. Joseph Smith ordained several of these “free Negroes” to the priesthood, and in the end was murdered by the “Warsaw Regulators,” precursors or co-conspirators associated with the “Knights of the Golden Circle,” who also murdered Abraham Lincoln, and went on to become the “Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.”
Generations of the KKK listed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as their mortal enemy. That might be good to know if you’re black and LDS. I think, anyway.
Actual “black” African members, all of which can be considered “new,” members, generally have almost no common experience with African American sentiments about “black-white” or any other “racial” issue. The notion of “white privilege” or “reparations” for the whole slavery thing is of no interest to them at all in terms of affecting their daily lives and aspirations. It’s not that they don’t often believe it’s a personal reality, it’s just that since, if true, there’s nothing to be done about it, they tend to just get on with succeeding in life anyway. African Americans on the other hand, deem “white privilege” to be so debilitating and systemic that their entire mentality revolves around being compensated for it one way or another, and preaching the oppressive evil of it to all their brothers and sisters in the “struggle,” citing it as their single reason for all life’s trials and failures, regardless of how high they might rise socially, politically, or financially in the culture and government. But that’s another rant I’ll have to write some day.
I was most surprised to find that what seems to go on mostly in these “black” LDS online groups, or at least a good part of the motivation for these groups, based on the sorts of blatantly anti-“white” links posted from almost exclusively African American “alleged” Saints, is a lot of bitching and moaning about “white people,” in general, along with the specifically LDS hope-filled casting of lots on, and cheerleading efforts supporting the urgent need of the Brethren to call this or that next general authority out of “black” or other “ethnic” options rather than “white.” This, as I pointed out to the contributors of these groups more than a few times, struck me as very odd, since, as I reminded them, the presidents of the church have all been “white.” Joseph Smith was “white.” Thomas S Monson, our current president or “prophet” is “white.” It’s a “white” church by and large up till this point, led by “white” leaders. That’s just a fact, not a judgement of worthiness. If you believe the church to be true, you have to accept the validity of its “whiteness,” it’s long train of “revelation” through “white” leadership, and the notion that these “white” folk were chosen out of all the earth to reorganize the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and so must be sanctioned by God, even for all the 20-20 hindsight of their ignorance in this or that compartmentalized social matter. You have to accept the divine wisdom of over 160 years of God calling these hunkered-down, isolated, exclusively “white” leaders selected for generations from a very “white” and sheltered pool of candidates along the Wasatch Front.
This observation for some reason, did little to make friends and influence people among my “black” brothers and sisters of Facebook.
Two of the three black LDS Facebook groups I found at the time were administered by one particular contributor who simply did nothing but share far Left, black, very militant activist propaganda from Black Lives Matter and other social-justice, socialist, black liberation theology and other revolutionary sites dedicated to preaching against “white privilege” and demanding compensation of one sort or another from “white” America in general for “400 years of slavery.” This included sites and propaganda connected to Nation of Islam narratives, “Reparations Movement” arguments, and “Black Jesus” or “Black Israelite” theology. A rundown of other groups he was engaged in did not include a single LDS related web page or blog, and there was no hint of LDS membership, theology, philosophy or language in his contributions to any of them. A number of other like-minded administrators and contributors dominated the first two groups I investigated, and I found little or no LDS-specific analysis or content in either, but the third was administered by an obviously LDS host and contained some very obviously LDS content, but like the other two, was also more than welcoming of boilerplate postings shared daily en-masse from all the aforementioned, militant, black-Leftist organizations, including those propagating the notion that all of mankind came out of Africa, and “inferior,” genetically mutated white races were barbarians who usurped “God’s Chosen,” and spread misery and oppression in a unique fashion over all the “chosen” dark races of the world. (Who we are led to believe by these proponents of divine “blackness,” were peaceful and civilized and Godly, before they were torn down and repressed by these freaks of nature, the “White Devils.”) The “black race” they claim would have clearly remained a shining example of genius and human kindness, but for “white” oppression.
In fairness, yes, one has to accept that to one extent or another these extremist, “black supremacist” cults are a counter-reaction to longstanding, and equally deluded “white supremacist” traditions, but ultimately they are just as deluded, self-crippling, and un-Christ-like as the precipitating Christian Identity Movement, the KKK, Aryan Nations, and any of the Neo-NAZI cloister fairy tales about the “Pure Aryan Race.”
Regarding the first “black” Facebook group I engaged, after opening a few comments, I was without warning or ceremony cut off (it being a closed group) for first raising the question of the actual LDS status of the aforementioned contributor/moderator who’s postings seemed so out-of-harmony with LDS principles. Furthermore, I observed openly that the only “white” contributors to the group seemed to be those overtly eager to apologize for being “white,” and cathartically grateful for the opportunity to repent and apologize for the incursion of “white” men into dark-skinned cultures in general–which I pointed out, seemed paradoxical, as again, any such confession would have to include the LDS church, inasmuch as it’s been until recently an all white phenomena, and thus God must certainly have been OK calling a load of all-“white” “prophets” to restore His church. In the course of debating this general theme over a handful of posts, and therefore delving into the validity of Black Lives Matter as an effective and LDS-friendly organization among other things, I was referred to snidely as “White Savior,” by a “white” Hispanic guy, criticized by a number of “white” LDS contributors who said, “Can’t you see that your posts are entirely different than all of the others?” and then blocked.
The second “black” Facebook group I investigated had very few “white” contributors, and I found, the slightest un-supportive observations about BLM led quickly into a lecture on Black Lives Matter objectives, it’s superior world-view and totally justified tactics, in which it was claimed that LDS perspectives were irrelevant to essentially any “black” issue, by the very selfsame main contributor/moderator I found so off-the-LDS-mark in group one, who was also administering this second group. (Goes by the name of Darron Smith.) At one point I observed that BLM was in fact founded upon a lie, dedicated nearly 100% of its efforts to defending the very criminals who were committing some 94% of all murders of young black men and black people in general, and that I didn’t see how anyone could join an allegedly LDS group and dictate the tone and content of it when they clearly weren’t LDS, and had no respect for or interest in LDS ethics, doctrines and morals. After a few comments along the lines of, “White folks aren’t ever going to do anything positive for black folks,” and the predictable denunciation of my observations as a “crazy white conservative,” I was promptly shut out by a co-administrator of this also closed group, who announced from his mobile device that he couldn’t wait till he got home to do so.
The third “black” LDS Facebook group I explored, I hung with for a couple of months, and had a number of lengthy, fairly heated but fair discussions with a number of contributors. Its moderator was obviously LDS, quite reasonable, and open to a wide range of discussion, in and out of LDS context. However, I also found that the same sort of Leftist, BLM propaganda made up a goodly portion of this forum as well, posted by the usual suspects from the other “black” LDS Facebook groups, including our own “Darron Smith,” not a moderator there, and a few other black-centric group-specific regulars. I ultimately withdrew from this open group voluntarily, almost exclusively on the issue of one contributor in particular, who had a few supporters, all of whom were apparently LDS, who kept insisting Jesus was “black” (meaning Negroid) and that the ancient Israelites we all “black,” (again
Meaning Negroes.) Furthermore, the general consensus of this almost exclusively “black” group seemed to concede that all of mankind came from Africa and was “black” meaning Negroid–and that the northern “white” tribes were the product of genetic mutations. Secularly speaking, skin color is irrelevant to either me or “science,” it’s not a “race” and a lot of “black” people from, in, and out of Africa, aren’t “Negroes.” Religiously speaking, well, there’s the Bible, the Pearl of Great Price and the lingering identification of a clearly very separate “black race” historically labeled “Hamites,” or “Negroes,” and that whole Adam Ondi Ahman thing to figure out. The whole issue isn’t clear from the standpoint of science even at this late date, nor is it clear from LDS or “Judaeo-Christian” orthodox traditions. What I found far more troubling and ignorant, certainly when entertained in an LDS forum, is a second line of reasoning in these black supremacist liturgies, where they are incorporating recent DNA discoveries that the “white” tribes were the descendants of Neanderthals, to claim that “whites” were thus less “human” or “less evolved” than the “black” tribes. (A sophomoric reversal on the Aryan purist’s claim that God made Adam and Eve, and Negroes evolved from apes, or in more “scientific” circles, that Negroes were simply less evolved than “white” men.) I’ll have more to say on the idea of the “white” Neanderthal sub-race theory in later BLM installments here, but the back edge of that particular propaganda sword is that you are thus effectively admitting that your brilliant, Godly, “pure” Negroid ancient ancestors and their “superior” civilizations had the crap kicked out of them and got enslaved worldwide by a bunch of stupid, grunting, hairy-arsed, stone-axe-wielding, pasty-faced cave men from the northern wilderness.
The last streak of posts I recall in this final group were claiming “Mass Resignations” from the church due to protests over the recent policy change on baptizing children of same-sex “marriages” or partnerships until the children in question are of the age of majority, and a long sermon about how un-Christian this move was. Other threads included predictions that gay and lesbian “discrimination” was the next thing to be eliminated in the church, and women were on track to receive the priesthood soon–based upon the new-found “enlightenment” of the Brethren in the “black” question.
Basically I bowed out and said I couldn’t stand to continuously read what was essentially heresy at worst and bad science at best from a group of so-called Latter-day Saints who couldn’t even see how problematic it was to justify those beliefs in light of modern
scripture, modern prophecy, and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. And more so, I didn’t see how a group of so-called Saints could have an almost militant disinterest in even discussing the relationship these sorts of secular propositions had to LDS canon and doctrine. IE:
If Adam Ondi Ahman, the Garden of Eden, was in Jackson County Missouri, how could all of mankind have come out of Africa? Any Latter-day Saint of reason who runs across this net-nonsense should think of the so-called “LDS” propagators of this silliness: While you are online, typing your little heart out, spouting a load of “black” supremacy patter about the “black African master race,” should this LDS canonical reality not automatically occur to you? Shouldn’t at least the plain dumb “white” folks, born and raise in the church along the Zion Front, at least note the doctrinal dilemmas that follow this whole line of reasoning?
On more than one occasion I was told I sounded like a racist for using the “N” word, and it took me a while to figure out this meant “Negro.” Replies to my previous essays on other blogs and forums on the matter likewise found more than one otherwise favorable response, claiming they wouldn’t share my blog even though they’d love to, because I would only be dismissed as a racist for using the term “Negro.” The “black” Latter-day Saint apparently doesn’t by-and-large even know that there is a difference between the two terms, “black” and “Negro,” or that “Negro” is and always has been the correct scientific designation of the “black African” race. But then again, there are a lot of “black Africans,” who aren’t “Negroes,” so “black African” or “sub-Saharan African” doesn’t do the same genetically descriptive job as “Negro.”
“Black” is not a race. “Blackness” is not even a reliable indicator of a race. “Negro” is a race. That this not-very-subtle difference would be an important distinction in discussing the history of race and LDS doctrine is beyond today’s “black” Latter-day Saint apparently, and has been replaced with an intellectually and spiritually damaging sense of double-talking, superficial, political correctness from popular, secular, left-leaning political forces, that should be shameful in a church that proclaims “the glory of god is intelligence.”
And make no mistake, there is nothing “Liberal” or “Democratic” about the forces behind either “Political Correctness,” or Black Lives Matter. These movements, and organizations connected with them are about shutting down opposing ideas. They are not at all about higher criticism, logic and reason, or a free exchange of ideas. They are not about either uncovering, exposing, researching, or preaching the “Truth.” They exist to prepare and propagandize a financially, politically, and personally advantageous narrative in order to profit and gain power and influence to effect a strictly self-serving agenda.
Several local and national Black Lives Matter “officials” or “leaders” have even admitted their goal really isn’t to save young black men from the mass annual self-slaughter of black-on-black crime. Their only focused object is to harass and persecute police officers who are forced to deal with their own “black” criminal element–which constitutes less than 4% of incidents according to a number of purely statistical surveys, that end up leading to fatalities in America’s “black” population.
“For every black man — criminal or innocent — killed by a cop, 40 black men were murdered by other black men. The, at most, 2.5 percent of the problem generates relentless rage.”
I trust I’ve already proven my willingness to harshly examine and criticize the LDS church as a whole and its leadership in particular in a fair, truthful and accurate manner regarding racial history and any lingering related issues. But, the fact is, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, even under the now-admitted 19th century ignorance and bigotry of our recently bus-thrown president Brigham Young, has never restricted priesthood ordination or temple ordinances based upon the color or “blackness” of a person’s skin. This probably seems like a dumbfounding lie to today’s “black” Latter-day Saint, and even more probably like heresy to the plain, dumb, “white” general LDS membership. That’s because nobody, not even those most interested in the issue, the “black” Latter-day Saint, has an understanding and command of the basic language, science, or genetics of race any more.
While we have no control over the schizophrenic mind-games of the ultra-politically correct, the academically-manipulated general population, of any or all races, we as Latter-day Saints owe it to ourselves and our posterity to scrape off the feel-good Millennial mind fluff from our grey matter, and get back to the basic, hard-core doctrinal issues of moving the church into a world of diverse peoples, races, and cultures–otherwise we are dupes, suckers, and self-defeating victims of our own spiritual and intellectual laziness, just waiting to be walked all over, shut up, shut down and manipulated by the loud mouths and bullies of pop-sociology and permissive politics or bigotry of the Right or Left extremes of our society.
And the worst of this cultivated, deliberate, racial stupidity and ignorance, is concentrated in a movement known as, “Black Lives Matter.” Have a look and listen. Tell me I’m wrong.