Anti-Mormonism can be daunting. Especially when it sounds so good on the first and second pass. From many experiences, I have learned not to be afraid of it. Anti-Mormonism does not hold up to any real scrutiny. Lately, I've been very busy working on a series of LDS Apologetics for my oldest son David. It has CONSUMED a lot of my time this last week. By posting these responses to my son, I hope to share what I have learned and hope the thought processes might help you answer similar questions you face. Blacks and the Priesthood is a really big one. What a lot of members don't know is that Brigham Young is considered to have been mistaken by some of the highest leadership in our church. I am quoting a few of them here:
Bruce R. McConkie "There are statements in our literature by the early brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, "You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?" And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.... We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more.... It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year."
Spencer W. Kimball "I know the Lord could change his policy and release the ban and forgive the possible error which brought about the deprivation."
Dallin H Oaks ""It's not the pattern of the Lord to give reasons. We can put reasons to commandments. When we do we're on our own. Some people put reasons to [the ban] and they turned out to be spectacularly wrong. There is a lesson in that.... The lesson I've drawn from that, I decided a long time ago that I had faith in the command and I had no faith in the reasons that had been suggested for it... I'm referring to reasons given by general authorities and reasons elaborated upon [those reasons] by others. The whole set of reasons seemed to me to be unnecessary risk taking... Let's [not] make the mistake that's been made in the past, here and in other areas, trying to put reasons to revelation. The reasons turn out to be man-made to a great extent. The revelations are what we sustain as the will of the Lord and that's where safety lies."
Gordon B Hinckley (when asked why blacks didn't hold the priesthood before 1978) "Because the leaders of the church at that time interpreted that doctrine that way...It's behind us. Look that's behind us. Don't worry about the little flecks in history..."
I love Brigham Young, he is one of my all-time favorites. Having said that, my stomach literally turns when I read some of the things he said about black people. He doesn't sound like a prophet when he goes on a rant about the topic, not on the senate floor nor a couple of other times. I understand why Brigham Young did it, starting with the hurt and sting of their expulsion from Missouri. What LDS foes don't acknowledge is the mobbing, the famous Mormon Extermination Order (Gov. Boggs) and the slaughter of LDS people were largely spurred by a newspaper article by W.W. Phelps urging blacks to come and be free and by our very public abolitionist stand in a pro-slavery state. (Joseph Smith ran for U.S. President in 1944 on an anti-slavery platform). This became a difficult and tragic time for the LDS people which was followed by the extenuating, and embarrassing circumstances surrounding a couple of black members while at Winter Quarters. However hard, I don't agree with Brigham's reaction / solution. But I don't feel defensive about this either. You see, as hard as it is to hear, racism is a universal challenge and has been around almost since the beginning of time. And there is not one group anywhere that can claim innocence from it. You may find comfort in the following answers I found as I researched the topic. It is also interesting that Joseph Smith did not ever address race and ordained several black elders and had them in the Quorum of the Seventy and sent them on missions. Even some LDS members are not aware of that.
Message to my son:
I was curious about Cain's curse and went on the internet and found a more fair shake on Wikipedia than at ULM. Turns out Brigham didn't originate that thought about Cain and the blacks and so on. He was raised to believe that in the non-LDS religion he grew up in.
From Wikipedia > topic > Cain's curse: "Historically, some Christians have interpreted the Biblical passages so that the "mark" is thought to be part of the "curse". In 18th century America and Europe, it was commonly assumed that Cain's "mark" was black skin, and that Cain's descendants were black and still under Cain's curse.
Mormon"While the majority, if not all, of Cain's descendants would have been killed in the great flood, according to Mormons from the late 19th to mid 20th century, Cain's bloodline was preserved on the ark through Egyptus, wife of Ham (son of Noah). The Book of Abraham, accepted by Mormons as part of their canon, is the source of the story of this Egyptus who preserves "the curse.... as pertaining to the Priesthood" by surviving the flood as Ham's wife. One must note, however, that in this canonized source no connection is made between her and Cain (her lineage is not given), nor is anything mentioned concerning her skin color. Thus, though Mormons combined the widespread belief that Cain's curse was a blackness of skin with another racist idea common in Europe and America (that the curse of Ham for seeing his father's nakedness was black skin), the idea that Ham's wife preserved a curse of black skin inherited from Cain that was passed on is not canonized doctrine."
Throughout all the world history there is lots of prejudice and stories behind that prejudice. In every race, in every era. There is always an animosity, an enmity, a tale about one group or race being less desirable than the other. The race topic you brought up is not handled equitably by that website's application on the topic and next time the fingers point, I hope you'll have the guts to say "And what Christian church at that time didn't believe that?" "Look on Wikipedia, they all believed that". So if you're going to badmouth Mormons for it, intelligently, you have to badmouth the whole American nation for it. MLK marched against the policies specifically in the Baptist Church, his church...yet you don't have anti-Baptists. Ought to think on that one. Or how about how only one lineage out of 12 could hold the priesthood in the Old Testament. Anyone have a problem with that? No, you don't hear it.
I'm not pleased about Brigham Young's remarks, don't believe that was one of his better moments nor do I admire him for expressing this loudmouth opinion on a political floor, but I don't have to be particularly defensive about it either because --it is important and fair to note --he did not ever claim this as a direct revelation, he claimed it upon his position as a prophet and this did not ever become part of our canon. In fact, it conflicts with the Book of Mormon. What really bothers me is how he is being singled out for espousing the same common belief that just about everyone else of his era had. It's an agenda when one person is held accountable and no one else is. That is the deceitful part of this presentation by that ULM website. Withholding the part about "oh yeah, everyone else believed the same thing." And you fell right in line.
That doesn't make what BY said right. But I already know that prophets make mistakes, sometimes some really big ones. The apostle Paul, one who wrote a major portion of the New Testament, had to have a notable vision shown to him twice before he would accept that non-Jews were OK. The Bible is full of examples of prophets getting chastised and moving up their learning curves. I'm sure by now, Brigham Young is eating his words. We all do at some point. But his arcane 200-year old comments do not define who the LDS are today nor our beliefs.
To be fair Brigham Young also said: "If the Government of the United States, in Congress assembled, had the right to pass an anti-polygamy bill, they had also the right to pass a law that slaves should not be abused as they have been; they had also a right to make a law that negroes should be used like human beings, and not worse than dumb brutes. For their abuse of that race, the whites will be cursed, unless they repent"
This is what is official and written in our canonized doctrine -- 2 Nephi 26:33 "For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile"
This is how own your mother was raised too. Bless my Dad's heart, he NEVER described anyone by skin color. Just by personality and attributes. My first best friend in the whole world, when my Dad was going to engineering school, was Sherry (5 years. old). Half-black and Half-white and back in the 1960's, mixed marriages were damned by both whites and blacks. Ferociously ostracized. My parents never mentioned it. And when Sherry had a birthday party and I was excitedly telling the neighbor lady I was invited to Sherry's birthday party, my neighbor said "You can't go to that party, she's black" and I stood on my tippy toes and said "No she's not, she BROWN". I went to the birthday party, my parents talked to her parents like they talked to anyone. Sherry was over all the time. It wasn't until I was much older that I realized what a great example they were. But they lived their religion on this matter, the same way it is written in the verse I just quoted. And they were both raised in a little town in Utah, in the middle of the desert. That is our way. And you heard your mother condemn racism in your own home. Enough times.
It is interesting to note that Joseph Smith did give blacks the priesthood in his day and was notorious for treating them like he did any neighbor. In essence, Joseph Smith was way ahead of his time, and Brigham Young, in that topic, was a product of his day. It is also fair to note there were hardly any blacks in the Utah Territory and this issue didn't come up a lot.
Now I'm going to hold up a mirror. You now aspire to please and align with friends who are anti-Mormon. That is as blatant of a practice of racism as there ever was. Your intelligence should pick up the great irony of being involved in this thought pattern. Hitler had lots of damning information about the Jews, many convincing reasons to incite people's enmity against them. How do you know you wouldn't have fallen right in line had you been there? That you wouldn't have snapped up his provoking jargon? Not trying to be insulting, but a large number of educated Austrians and Germans did just that, and it turned out to be a HUGE embarrassment. And what's even goofier, Hitler was half Jew. How sick is that?..."
Two black Mormon sisters share their thoughts on the whole topic. And it's better than anything I have to say.