Mormon Church finally admits it used to be racist towards black people, apologizes

As you may or may not know, the Mormon Church used to have some issues with black people. For many, years, black members were not allowed to be ordained into priesthood, marry in their temples or receive “sealing ordinances” or “temple endowments.” Why? Well, depending on who you ask, it was either because they were “descended from Ham” (a person in the bible, not the food product) or because the spirits all the people who were neutral in some great war in Heaven that happened before we all got here were later reincarnated as black people.

Brigham Young believed that the punishment for interracial marriage ought to be the death penalty. Whereas today, they just say “We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background, without question.” Baby steps!

The church, of course, has vehemently denied that any of this racism was actual racism. It was God, not them, who made the rules. They were merely innocent bystanders.

In 1978, the church leaders magically received a revelation from God telling them that black people were totally A-OK now. Which conveniently coincided with a time in history when they were being pressured to stop being weird racists, what with the Civil Rights Act having happened over a decade ago and all.

Despite the church’s previous policy, and the fact that for years they denied it was at all racist, there have always been black Mormons. Most notably, former black panther Eldridge Cleaver joined the church in the ’80s after deciding to go Republican (long, super weird story), and the glorious Gladys Knight became a member in 1997.

Finally, this past Friday, church leaders quietly admitted that their racist past was not “divinely inspired” but was, in fact, the product of good old fashioned racism.

“The Church was established in 1830, during an era of great racial division in the United States. At the time, many people of African descent lived in slavery, and racial distinctions and prejudice were not just common but customary among white Americans. Those realities, though unfamiliar and disturbing today, influenced all aspects of people’s lives, including their religion. Many Christian churches of that era, for instance, were segregated along racial lines.

“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”

Today, the church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.

While many in the church are happy to hear leaders finally dealing with Mormonism’s shady past concerning race, others, like LDS historian Richard Bushman, worry what effect this statement could have on the church.

“Mormons believe that their leaders are in regular communication with God, so if you say Young could make a serious error, he said, “it brings into question all of the prophet’s inspiration.”

Members need to recognize that God can “work through imperfect instruments,” Bushman said. “For many Latter-day Saints, that is going to be a difficult transition. But it is part of our maturation as a church.”

Which all this maturation is nice– not to rain on anyone’s inclusivity parade, but let us not forget that the church is still super bigoted towards LGBT people. Will they be needing a revelation from God to correct that, or do you think they’ll figure it out on their own.

h/t Friendly Atheist