By John J. Stewart
Editor of Publications
Associate Professor of Journalism
Utah State University
|"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth . . ." (Romans 1:16)|
Yet because of the popular beliefs and traditions of the world, there are at least two points of doctrine and history of this Church about which many LDS themselves - to say nothing of many non-members - feel ill at ease or critical. One of these is its doctrine regarding the Negro.
If we properly understood this doctrine, and the reasons for it, we would not feel critical of it. "And ye shall know the truth," taught Jesus, "and the truth shall set you free." (John 8:32) We would become free of any misgivings about these teachings, and readily proclaim to the world what they are, and why.
In regard to this policy on Negroes, members of the Church face three alternatives:
|(1) Be apologizers for the Church: say that it is old fashioned, outmoded on this point: prejudiced.
(2) Confess that we do not know the reasons for this policy, although we accept it; that we have blind faith in it.
(3) Proclaim that it is a correct and reasonable doctrine, that it is tenable, that we have no reason either to apologize for it nor evade questions about it. We must then explain the reasons for it and show that it is consistent with the rest of LDS doctrine.
The first two alternatives are totally unacceptable to me:
If we are apologizers for the Church on this point, then we admit in effect that all Gospel doctrine is not sound; we say in effect that either the original position of the Church was incorrect on this matter, or, if it was correct, that we as a Church do not enjoy continuous revelation and thus have become out-dated on this doctrine. If we deny continuous revelation in the Church then we place ourselves in much the same position as all other so-called Christian sects, and isolate ourselves from God, the head of our Church.
If we accept the second alternative, that of blind faith in the doctrine, something that we do not understand but do not question, then we place ourselves in much the same position as churches that favor blind faith. And we find ourselves having to evade rather than face issues. But LDS theology teaches us that our faith should be an intelligent faith, not a blind faith. For instance, we read in the Book of Moses:
|"And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said, I know not, save the Lord commanded me. And then the angel spake, saying, This thing is a similitude of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth . . ." (Moses 5:6-7)|
From this scripture and many others, it can be seen that God does not wish us to be content with blind faith. He desires that we have intelligent faith and understanding. "The glory of God is intelligence," observed the Prophet Joseph Smith. (D. & C. 93:36)
So, the true Church member rules out the first two alternatives and moves to the third: to proclaim that it is a correct doctrine, then explain why this is so.
|(1) Loyal LDS Church members, who deserve reassurance that all Gospel teachings are true and just.
(2) Interested Negro investigators of Mormonism.
(3) Other honest investigators of Mormonism, whose acceptance of Gospel truths may, as with group 2, be thwarted by their misunderstanding of this doctrine.
(4) Negroes at large, who are not investigators of the Gospel, but are nonetheless fellow human beings and members of our society.
(5) Skeptics or "Mormon-baiters," whether in or out of the Church.
This last group, the "Mormon-baiters," we can dismiss in a hurry. They have already closed their mind to truth and reason. You cannot prove anything to anybody who is determined not to believe a thing.
Consider the foolishness and hypocrisy of their position. They are denouncing the LDS Church for not allowing the Negro to hold the Priesthood, yet, they claim that there is no authenticity or value in the Priesthood. So, if they were really concerned about the welfare of the Negro, they should be grateful that the LDS Church does not allow the Negro to partake of such humbugery as they deem the Priesthood to be. On close analysis we see that they are trying to have foisted onto the Negro a thing they consider to be of no worth. And I suspect that is about as much genuine interest as they have in the welfare of the Negro. Their objective, we see, is not justice for the Negro, but persecution of the LDS Church. They are partakers of the spirit of Satan.
But to the other four groups: the conscientious Church member, the investigator, the Negro investigator, and the Negro at large, we are pleased to give an explanation of this doctrine. They are each entitled to an answer.
Now, these are high, noble motives and ideas that prompt these feelings of the apologizer, and he is worthy of commendation for such feelings. But in his desire to see justice done to the Negro, he has failed to fully explore the matter in light of historical facts and Gospel truths:
Jefferson's idealistic declaration, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . ." (American Declaration of Independence) is consistent with LDS teachings. But where the apologizer loses his way is in forgetting that men were not created, in the proper sense of the word, at the beginning of life in this world, but rather thousands of years ago.
In fact, we were co-eternal with God Himself, and He created or organized us as spirit entities long before we came into this mortal world. Now, here is a great eternal truth that the world at large knows little about. But members of the Church know it, and cannot afford to forget it. We will return to this point later.
In supposing that LDS policy in not allowing the Negro to hold the Priesthood was the result of, or influenced by, world prejudice against the Negro, and especially by the fact that Negroes were slaves in America at the time the Gospel was restored - in believing this is to be so, the apologizer not only shows an ignorance of historical facts, but he reveals a personal doubt in the validity of the inspiration and teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his successors in the presidency of the Church. He also betrays a lack of reasoning. A careful study of the life and teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith would show the fallacy of this supposition. Let us consider this for a moment:
The Prophet's whole life shows beyond doubt that he was not afraid of persecution nor public censure nor ridicule. He openly taught his convictions of truth, no matter how much trouble and hardship it brought upon him. He even gave his life rather than yield to such pressure or to compromise on truth.
To suppose that he would curry the favor of the world by manifesting a prejudice against the Negro is an affront to this courageous man, and to the known facts of history. Let us ask the apologizer this: if Joseph Smith denied the Negro the right to the Priesthood, as a means of currying favor with the world, or as a means of satisfying his personal prejudice, then why did he allow the Negro to hold membership in the Church at all?
Surely the popular thing would have been for him to declare that no Negro could join the LDS Church. We must keep in mind that in the United States in the 1830's, the unpopular person in society was not the slave owner, but rather the abolitionist. By and large, slavery was still popular during the entire lifetime of the Prophet, 1805-1844.
Rather than his trying to curry favor with non-Mormons over the Negro question, what was really the conduct of the Prophet Joseph in this matter?
In the early 1830's he wrote and published in the Messenger and Advocate, the Church newspaper at Kirtland, Ohio, an editorial suggesting that leading men in the southern states should take measures to liberate the slaves, so that the Negro could enjoy the blessings of a free nation. He also invited an abolitionist to give a public speech at Kirtland, at a time when abolitionists were generally hated in the North as well as in the South.
Do you know what the immediate cause was of the Latter-Day Saints being driven out of Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, when they lost thousands of dollars worth of property, and some of them forfeited their lives?
It was an editorial published in the LDS newspaper there, The Evening and Morning Star, entitled, "Free People of Color," and an editorial filler in the same edition of the paper, in which the editor noted that, "In connection with the wonderful events of this age, much is doing towards abolishing slavery, and colonizing the Blacks in Africa."
This, remember, was published in the slave state of Missouri by a people already being persecuted. Was this done, do you suppose, to curry favor? As soon as this edition was published, the mobs, prodded by the ministers of the Protestant sects there, destroyed the Church's printing office there, tarred and feathered Bishop Edward Partridge, and began their destruction of the Saint's property, finally driving them from the state. In their ultimatum to the Mormons, demanding that they leave or be exterminated, the Missourians declared that the Mormon's policy of allowing the Negro to hold membership in the LDS Church "exhibits them in still more odious colors."
And at the time of this popular prejudice against the Negroes, what did the prophet Joseph Smith declare?
|"They have souls, and are subjects of salvation. Go into Cincinnati or any city, and find an educated Negro, who rides in his carriage, and you will see a man who has risen by the powers of his own mind to his exalted state of respectability. The slaves in Washington are more refined than many in high places, and the black boys will take the shine off many of those they brush and wait on." (History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 217)|
When, at the age of 38, the Prophet was seeking the presidency of the Unites States in 1844, sixteen years before the beginning of the Civil War, and when most of the nation still favored slavery, he strongly advocated that the Negroes be freed. In his political manifesto, Views on the Powers and Policy of Government, which was widely published in the spring of 1844, the Prophet implored:
|"Petition also, ye goodly inhabitants of the slave states, your legislators to abolish slavery by the year 1850, or now, and save the abolitionist from reproach and ruin, infamy and shame. Pray Congress to pay every man a reasonable price for his slaves out of the surplus revenue arising from the sale of public lands, and from the deduction of pay from the members of Congress. Break off the shackles from the poor black man, and hire them to labor like other human beings; for an hour of virtuous liberty on earth is worth a whole eternity of bondage'!" (History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 205)|
The Prophet had Negro servants and friends who were devoted to him, recognizing in him a champion of their race and rights. It is interesting to not, too, that among the very first company of Saints to make the famous Mormon pioneer trek across the plains to Utah there were three Negroes.
Now, in view of the historical facts, can the apologizer reasonably believe that the LDS doctrine enunciated by Joseph Smith on the Negroes' not holding the Priesthood - that this was actuated by his desire to please the public, or to satisfy some personal prejudice? If this was not the reason, then what was?
The fact is that every doctrine the Prophet Joseph announced for the organization and direction of the LDS Church was revealed to him by the Lord. Many were his teachings and practices which displeased the world, but he held fast to them because the doctrines were of divine origin. So, the apologizer finds himself in an awkward position, that of not only apologizing for the Church but for God Himself. It is a precarious position to be in, to say the least.
If we as members of the Church are going to pick and choose among the Prophets teachings, and say "this one is of God, we can accept it, but this one is of man, we will reject that," then we are undermining the whole structure of our faith, and for our own personal sake we cannot afford to do that.
Besides, I have shown that the Prophet's own attitude, as demonstrated in both speech and action, was one of fairness and kindness toward the Negro.
I now propose to show three important truths: (1) that the LDS doctrine of not allowing the Negro to bear the Priesthood is entirely consistent with both of the two great attributes of God Himself, the attributes of Justice and Mercy; (2) that in this matter of the Negroes' not holding the Priesthood we can gain a much clearer insight into those basic Gospel principles of Free Agency, Fore-Ordination, and Eternal Progress; (3) that a belief in the correctness of this doctrine is consistent with other beliefs and practices in daily life which we seldom, if ever, question.
Now, let us see whether we agree upon certain fundamentals, so that we have a common premise from which to work:
We believe that God is our Creator, that He is an all-wise God, that He is concerned about the eternal welfare of all His Children, one as well as another. We believe that He is all-powerful, and controls in the destiny of mankind and all that pertains to it. We further believe in the concept of eternal progress: that as man is God once was, and as God is man may become. (May become, not necessarily will become, for that would not make allowance for free agency. We may become like God, or we may become like Satan, or we may become something in between these two extremes.)
As part of this plan of eternal progress we believe that his world - this mortal life that we are now in - is just one of several stages of eternal life: We believe that we had a pre-mortal existence, first as an intelligence, co-eternal with God Himself, and then as an organized spirit child of God, and that during that pre-mortal existence we had individual identity and were capable of doing good or evil. For example, we believe that approximately one-third of the hosts of heaven - one-third of those spirit brothers of ours - kept not their first estate, but rather rebelled against God and His plan for our eternal progress and allied themselves with Lucifer, a son of the morning, who, through vanity and selfishness, rebelled against God. We believe that Satan and the third of the spirit children of God who followed Satan were cast out of the presence of God, and became Perdition and Sons of Perdition. In this plan of eternal progress, we believe that this mortal life is not the end of our existence but that we will continue on eternally, passing through other stages, as designed by God our Creator.
We believe that an essential key to this plan of eternal life is that of free agency; that God Himself developed through free agency, and that He recognizes free agency as necessary to the development of any person. It is in the very divine nature of man to insist upon free agency, as can amply be seen in our own lives and in the history of the world generally. We believe that in the great Council in heaven, one reason Lucifer's plan was rejected was because he proposed to deny man his free agency, and God realized that such a plan was neither desirable nor workable.
We believe that while man, in his present state of development or eternal progress, has only a finite mind, that God has an infinite mind, and that therefore man's ways are not necessarily God's ways. God views things from the standpoint of the eternal, not from just the immediate or mortal point of view. A thousand years with man is but a day with God - this time relationship being based upon the natural laws and structure of the universe.
We believe that God's house is a house of order and not a house of confusion; that His actions and plans are reasonable and logical, not haphazard nor happenstance.
As part of this plan of eternal progress we believe in the principle of fore-ordination - not pre-destination, for that would not conform to free agency. In this, we believe that certain personalities in the pre-mortal existence, because of their record of conduct and performance there, were chosen of God to come to earth, to this mortal state, at specified times during the world's history and to be given the opportunity to accomplish certain things as servants of the Lord in executing his plan of eternal progress for the human race.
This principle of fore-ordination is logical because it reflects the justice of God in rewarding His children for obedience and for being valiant in helping to further His plan for the good of all mankind.
Such a fore-ordained person, according to scripture, was Abraham:
|"Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born." (Abraham 3:22-23)|
Abraham was not denied his free agency in this matter; he could have rejected or forfeited his favored position upon the earth, just as many others have. For instance, Thomas B. Marsh, the first president of the first Quorum of Twelve Apostles in this the dispensation of the Fulness of Times, was fore-ordained of God, as were Joseph Smith, and others. But Marsh, exercising his free agency, and tempted of Satan - as all men are - forfeited his fore-ordination and fell from his high calling. Likewise did Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, David Whitmer, Frederick G. Williams, William Law, and many others.
We believe that we were fore-ordained to the privilege of membership in this Church and Priesthood; privileged to be born under the favorable circumstances that we have been, at such an opportune time and place. Yet, many of us, exercising our free agency, are forfeiting this birthright, this fore-ordination.
If a person does not believe in this principle of fore-ordination, then he does not believe in a fundamental doctrine of Christianity, for the very mission of Jesus Christ Himself, as Redeemer of the world and Savior of mankind, was arranged upon the principle of fore-ordination.
Or do you suppose that He, in and of Himself, after his birth upon the earth, decided that He would become the Redeemer and the Savior?
Now, if through fore-ordination, as a result of their performance in the spirit life, certain individuals were privileged to be born under the most favorable possible circumstances, then it must necessarily follow that others would be born under less favorable circumstances, and still others under the least favorable circumstances.
It is good to be idealistic, but we should at the same time be rational: If person "A" is the tallest man in the room, it must follow that other men in the room are shorter, and person "X" is the shortest.
Is it just or unjust on the part of God, our Creator, to enable people to be born under those circumstances and with those opportunities consistent with their conduct in the spirit world?
If an individual or a business firm or government agency has a number of men working for him or it, are they all rewarded the same? Are they all made president, or vice-president, or district managers? Or are they rewarded in accordance with their integrity and ability?
We do not question the correctness, justice nor logic of varying degrees of excellence and of opportunity among men in whatsoever walk of life.
The thing that would be unjust, and illogical, and chaotic, would be God's rewarding all men the same regardless of their integrity or lack of it. Carry this foolish notion to the ultimate and you would place Christ and Satan on a par.
Now, we believe that the old sectarian notion that when a person dies he goes to one of two places, either heaven or hell, to either an eternity of bliss or an eternity of torment - I say, we believe that this doctrine is a vicious fallacy: to say that God draws the line at a certain point and says, now all above the line come into heaven, and all below go down to hell. At what point can such a line be reasonably or justly drawn? Between the man who steals a thousand dollars and the one who steals only nine hundred?
This is one of the many false notions of the world that the Prophet Joseph Smith clarified. The Lord revealed to him the state of Perdition and the three degrees of glory: the Celestial, the Terrestrial, and the Telestial, within each of which there are innumerable degrees of salvation and exaltation, each person enjoying that degree which he has earned through his conduct in the pre-mortal and the mortal worlds.
Is this not justice? Do you rather, you apologizers, accept the old sectarian notion of justice: one heaven and one hell? Or do you indulge in muddied idealistic thinking and picture every person as being crowned in heaven, regardless of how filthy and unworthy and disobedient his conduct has been? Is there either justice, mercy, or reason in such a notion? Do you suppose it would be merciful to the murderer, the adulterer, the unrepentant thief, or to Satan himself, to place him, or any of them, in the presence of God and Christ and their holy angels? How comfortable is the adulterer sitting in church, or in the company of God-fearing men? Why do you suppose it is so difficult for those who have fallen into sin of any kind to participate in church activities? Is it not because when we sin we sin against our own souls and create a conflict and turmoil within ourselves.
In life after death, through the justice and mercy of God, we will each seek our own level, the place in which we feel most comfortable and best suited; we will judge ourselves as well as being judged of God. This principle of human nature can be seen at work in daily life. Even in state and federal prisons, among murderers, rapists, thieves, et al, it is not uncommon to find the prisoners themselves demanding segregation.
This self-judgment is based upon a natural law, a law of human nature, which is divine nature, man being literally a child of God.
Now, I ask you, if it is logical, just and merciful, that in life after death, after this phase of our eternal existence, for us to be awarded various degrees of glory, is it not consistent, and in complete harmony with God's eternal scheme of things, that the same pattern should be followed in this mortal stage of our existence? That is, that our positions, the circumstances of our birth into this life, be determined by our conduct in a life before this? To me, it is both reasonable and just. If you do not believe it to be so, then let me ask you how you can conceive it to be justice on the part of God to allow His children to be born under the widely varying circumstances under which they are born? Do you suppose that God, the Creator of us all, does not know that spirit "X" is going to be born into such and such family? Can you reasonably believe that the circumstances of our birth are by mere chance, or by birth?
There is neither logic nor justice in this notion of chance. It says in effect that while God is the Father of us all, He does not know just what is going on; that His house is a house of confusion, not a house of order.
Let us return to our premise that God is our Father and controls in the destiny of men; that He rewards in accordance with our merit. This we see in His selection of Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of the world, and in His selection of Abraham, Moses, Peter, and others for their particular roles. Do you suppose that God would be solicitous of their lives, and yet not be aware of the lives of the rest of His children, including the circumstances of their birth?
Such a notion is entirely irrational and inconsistent. It makes a mockery of our prayers. For example, both publicly and privately in our prayers we thank God that we enjoy the blessings of living in a Democracy, of being free from political tyranny, of being born under the Gospel covenant or of having had the Gospel preached unto us, etc. Now, do we offer these prayers in sincerity, or are we merely speaking words? If sincerely, then do we believe we have been so blessed in accordance with our worthiness, as determined by our performance in the pre-mortal life, or do we accredit it to a fickle God who shows favoritism rather than justice in His dealings with His children? A God who is respecter of persons, even though He has declared that He is not? Is there any justice in a God who would just arbitrarily assign one child to birth into a fine Christian family with multiple blessings of life, and another child to birth under circumstances leading to a life of squalor or prostitution?
If we really believe the scriptures that we profess to believe, then we believe that Lucifer and one-third of the hosts of heaven rebelled against God and were thus cast out of heaven, were denied the privilege of partaking of mortal bodies, and have become Perdition and Sons of Perdition. This is not a pleasant picture, but we believe it to be a true one.
Neither are the millions of insane and afflicted people upon the earth, nor the squalor, filth, poverty and degradation in the world, a pretty picture. Yet, we know that these conditions do exist, and we believe that the people living under such unfortunate conditions are children of God and are our brothers and sisters.
If God would allow one-third of His children, through exercise of their free agency, to become Sons of Perdition and thus deprive themselves of eternal progress, is it difficult or inconsistent to believe that He would allow millions of the other two-thirds, through their own free agency, to penalize themselves as to their circumstances in this world?
We have shown the fallacy of believing that there is one heaven and one hell, with a sharp division between the two. Is it logical to believe that there was a sharp division among the hosts of heaven in the spirit world, to believe that each individual of the two-thirds who remained faithful to God were equally valiant, one compared to another, in their conduct? We are the same spirits upon this earth as we were in the pre-mortal state, and do we find here that all are as valiant, one as much as another? Or do we find that there are all degrees and variations among us? Just as there will be innumerable degrees of progress and glory in the life hereafter?
It comes back to the difference between the two plans of salvation, the one proposed by Christ and the other by Lucifer: Lucifer said that he would compel men to obey the Gospel and would save everyone. God rejected this plan, knowing that compulsion could and should not work, that man could not and should not be compelled to progress. Christ said the He would give man his free agency, would teach him the Gospel, allow him to be tried and tested. Under Christ's plan some would attain the highest degree of glory, some a lesser degree and some would be lost, for such is the inevitable result of free agency, of a choice between good and evil. This is the plan that God the Father accepted, for He knew that man could not develop God-like attributes without free agency.
The nature of man is eternal, and every day we see about us the results of free agency, some choosing good and others choosing evil. Some being energetic in the cause of truth, and others being apathetic, indifferent. We, therefore, need not rely on faith in this principle; we know it for a certainty, for it is daily before us.
In view of the divine, eternal nature of man, what reason have we to question that the same result of free agency existed in the pre-mortal state?
In considering this matter we must remember that this world is not the final stage of life. Our eternal existence is much like a race of several laps or relays: we may move rapidly ahead in the first lap and fall behind in the next; or we may start out slowly in the first but speed ahead in the second. That is the way it is in this mortal stage of life: we may neglect our opportunities for a number of years, or even get off on the wrong track, then later repent and make amends, or vice versa. And so it is in immortal life, in the eternal scheme.
Satan and a third of the hosts of heaven disqualified themselves from further racing. But of the two-thirds who stayed in the race, some moved ahead swiftly and others slowly; that is, some were valiant and proved themselves worthy of favored positions in the next stage of their existence; others less so, and still others, least worthy among those who did qualify to enter that next stage - our present stage of mortality.
We were all eager for an opportunity to partake of mortality, knowing that it was a necessary step in eternal progress. And we were willing to come into mortality under those circumstances that we had merited by our conduct in that first estate - the pre-mortal existence, even though undoubtedly those who had not been valiant there wished that they had been, just as those of us not valiant in the Gospel cause in this life will have regrets in the next life.
A typical critic(1) of the LDS policy regarding Negroes has asserted that,
|"This doctrine pressed to its logical conclusion would say that Dr. George Washington Carver, the late eminent and saintly Negro scientist, is by virtue of the color of his skin, inferior even to the least admirable white person, not because of the virtues he may or may not possess, but because - through no fault of his - there is a dark pigment in his skin."|
There is nothing in LDS teaching to support or indicate a notion such as this. The circumstances of our birth in this world are dependent upon the our performance in the spirit world, just as the circumstances of our existence in the next world will depend upon what use we make of the blessings and opportunities we enjoy in this world. According to LDS doctrine, Dr. George Washington Carver - who incidentally, was a mulatto rather than a Negro - will be far ahead of many of us born under more favorable circumstances in this life, for he made the most of his opportunities, while many of us are forfeiting our birthright. We were ahead of him in the first lap of the race, but he has gone far ahead of many of us in the second. God has told us that He will judge men according to what they do with the light and knowledge and opportunities given them.
|"For of him unto whom much is given, much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation." (D. & C. 82:3)|
While the Negro and others of Negroid blood cannot hold the Priesthood, in this stage of life, apparently because of a lack of valor in the pre-mortal existence, neither are any of them likely to become Sons of Perdition - as many of the Priesthood bearers might become. Again in this we see the justice and mercy of God; that while in certain stage of existence a man cannot attain the highest blessings, neither is he so subject to the danger of falling to the lowest state.
Those who think that the Negroes' not being allowed the Priesthood and its attendant blessings in this mortal state is due to racial prejudice might consider the fact that there have been millions of people live and die upon this earth who likewise have not had the privilege of not bearing the Priesthood here, regardless of what the color of their skin was. For centuries, the Priesthood was upon the earth, except as possessed by a few key servants of God.
The critic should note, too, that there are hundreds of millions of people upon the earth today who do not enjoy the privilege of even belonging to the Church, to say nothing of the Priesthood, for they have never heard of it, while there are many Negroes, here in the United States and elsewhere, who have had the opportunity to join the Church. This is further evidence of the fallacy of the racial prejudice accusation.
For that matter, if the critic or the apologizer is going to feign indignation about the Negroes' not being allowed to bear the Priesthood, why should he not feel even more indignant about women not having the Priesthood conferred upon them? Is this sex prejudice? The Church says that women sealed in Celestial marriage enjoy the blessings of the Priesthood in connection with their husbands. But they do not hold the Priesthood. And there are thousands of LDS women who do not have the opportunity of entering Celestial marriage and thus of directly sharing the benefits of the Priesthood. Is this an injustice of God to them, in denying them the Priesthood?
In scripture, we read of quite a number of instances of God's placing a curse or mark upon a certain person or people because of their misconduct and disobedience to His laws. The Curse usually involves not only that particular person or generation of people, but their posterity as well. One example is the Jews, cursed to become "a hiss and a byword"; another is the Lamanites, whose skin was turned dark, and that of their children after them.
Would it be justice on the part of God to just haphazardly or arbitrarily assign certain spirits to be born into these families or nations, just for the sake of carrying out His curse upon the guilty party? Or would He assign those souls whose performance in the spirit world warrants such a circumstance of birth? Which is in keeping with God's attribute of justice? Which is reasonable?
Think of the millions of spirits born into the Lamanite race after the Lamanites had become a fallen people. How can you justify such an unfortunate circumstance of birth except on the basis of individual performance in pre-mortal life?
"WE BELIEVE THAT MEN WILL BE PUNISHED FOR THEIR OWN SINS AND NOT FOR ADAM'S TRANSGRESSION," DECLARED THE PROPHET JOSEPH SMITH. (LDS Article of Faith Number 2)
And so it is with the Negroes. There were those in the spirit world whose performance caused them to forfeit the right to bear the Priesthood of God and enjoy its inherent blessings in this world.
Cain, a son of Adam and Eve, apparently had a very different record in the spirit world. He was likely one of the valiant ones there, and thus was born into this world under the most favorable circumstances, of a noble sire and mother, and was even privileged to walk and talk with God. Yet, Cain fell to the temptations of Satan, rejected God, murdered his brother Abel and thus brought upon himself a curse.
|"And Adam and Eve, his wife, ceased not to call upon God. And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bare Cain, and said: I have gotten a man from the Lord; wherefore he may not reject his words. But behold, Cain hearkened not, saying: Who is the Lord that I should know him?
And she again conceived and bare his brother Abel. And Abel hearkened unto the voice of the Lord. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
And Cain loved Satan more than God. And Satan commanded him, saying: Make an offering unto the Lord.
And in process of time it came to pass that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.
And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering;
But unto Cain, and to his offering, he had not respect. Now Satan knew this, and it pleased him. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
And the Lord said unto Cain: Why are thou wroth? Why is thy countenance fallen?
If thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted. And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door, and Satan desireth to have thee; and except thou shalt hearken unto my commandments, I will deliver thee up, and it shall be unto thee according to his desire. And thou shalt rule over him;
For from this time forth thou shalt be the father of his lies; thou shalt be called Perdition; for thou wast also before the world.
And it shall be said in time to come--That these abominations were had from Cain; for he rejected the greater counsel which was had from God; and this is a cursing which I will put upon thee, except thou repent.
And Cain was wroth, and listened not any more to the voice of the Lord, neither to Abel, his brother, who walked in holiness before the Lord.
And Adam and his wife mourned before the Lord, because of Cain and his brethren.
And it came to pass that Cain took one of his brothers' daughters to wife, and they loved Satan more than God.
And Satan said unto Cain: Swear unto me by thy throat, and if thou tell it thou shalt die; and swear thy brethren by their heads, and by the living God, that they tell it not; for if they tell it, they shall surely die; and this that thy father may not know it; and this day I will deliver thy brother Abel into thine hands.
And Satan sware unto Cain that he would do according to his commands. And all these things were done in secret.
And Cain said: Truly I am Mahan, the master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain. Wherefore Cain was called Master Mahan, and he gloried in his wickedness." (Moses 5:16-31)
After Cain had defied God's warnings, committed murder, denied the Holy Ghost and had become Perdition, to rule over Satan, God said to him,
|"And now thou shalt be cursed from the earth which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand.
When thou tillest the ground it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength. A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth."
Cain protested, "he that findeth me will slay me, because of mine iniquities."
And the Lord replied, "Whosoever slayeth thee, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And I the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him." (Moses 5:36-40)
Later we read, in Moses' account,
|"and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people." (Moses 7:8)
"And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them." (Moses 7:22)
And in the Book of Abraham we read that at the time of the great flood when Noah with his three sons and their families were the only ones preserved, that the seed of Cain was perpetuated through one of Noah's sons, Ham, and his wife, Egyptus, apparently a Negress, and that Ham and his descendants were denied the right to hold the Priesthood. Father Abraham, chronicling the genealogy of the Egyptians in his day, states:
|"Behold, Potiphar's Hill was in the land of Ur, of Chaldea. And the Lord broke down the altar of Elkenah, and of the gods of the land, and utterly destroyed them, and smote the priest that he died; and there was great mourning in Chaldea, and also in the court of Pharaoh; which Pharaoh signifies king by royal blood.
Now this king of Egypt was a descendant from the loins of Ham, and was a partaker of the blood of the Canaanites by birth.
From this descent sprang all the Egyptians,(2) and thus the blood of the Canaanites was preserved in the land.
The land of Egypt being first discovered by a woman, who was the daughter of Ham, and the daughter of Egyptus, which in the Chaldean signifies Egypt, which signifies that which is forbidden;
When this woman discovered the land it was under water,(3) who afterward settled her sons in it; and thus, from Ham, sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land.
Now the first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus,(4) the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was patriarchal.
Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.
Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry;" (Abraham 1:20-27)
Note that Pharaoh was a good man, just as Dr. George Washington Carver and many others of Negroid blood have been and are good men. Note, too, that Ham and his posterity, through the mercy of God, were blessed "with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessing of wisdom," although denied the right of Priesthood.
Among the Negroid people, as indeed among all the races of the earth, there is infinite variety and degree of circumstances of birth, of goodness, of opportunity or lack of it. There are Negroes born into families of wealth and refinement, others who are blessed with great talents, and there are those born into the lowest classes of society in Africa, in squalor and ignorance, living out their lives in a fashion akin to that of the animals.
Does not this infinite variety of circumstances give further evidence of man's being assigned that station in life which he has merited in the pre-mortal existence?
Note, also, that part of Cain's curse was to have as his posterity those spirits unable to bear the Priesthood in this life. In view of the importance the humans rightly attach to their children, their posterity, what greater curse could come upon Cain, as pertaining to this life? And what could be more appropriate than for these spirits to have such a man as Cain as their progenitor?
To suppose that the Negroes, the descendants of Cain, are born with black skins and are denied the Priesthood merely to perpetuate God's curse upon Cain, is alike an affront to reasoning man and to the justice and mercy of God.
In the above scripture form Abraham, then, we have a reliable account of the early genealogy of the Negro race, and in Abraham's comments we have further evidence of the divine direction in the LDS policy of not allowing the Negro, the seed of Cain and Ham, to bear the Priesthood.
This divinely directed policy has been reaffirmed by the Church leaders in our day. In answering the letter of a prominent Mormon critical of the Church policy in this matter, the First Presidency of the LDS Church, a few years ago, wrote as follows:
|"We might make this initial remark: the social side of the Restored Gospel is only an incident of it; it is not the end thereof.
The basic element of your ideas and concepts seems to be that all God's children stand in equal positions before Him in all things.
Your knowledge of the Gospel will indicate to you that this is contrary to the very fundamentals of God's dealing with Israel dating from the time of His promise to Abraham regarding Abraham's seed and their position vis-a-vis with God himself. Indeed, some of God's children were assigned to superior positions before the world was formed. We are aware that some Higher Critics do not accept this, but the Church does.
Your position seems to lose sight of the revelations of the Lord touching the pre-existence of our spirits, the rebellion in heaven, and the doctrine that our birth into this life and the advantages under which we may be born, have a relationship in the life heretofore.
From the days of the Prophet Joseph even until now, it has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by any of the Church leaders, that the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel.
Furthermore, your ideas, as we understand them, appear to contemplate the intermarriage of the Negro and White races, a concept which has heretofore been most repugnant to most normal-minded people from the ancient patriarch till now. God's rule for Israel, His Chosen People, has been endogamous. Modern Israel has been similarly directed.
We are not unmindful of the fact that there is growing tendency, particularly among some educators, as it manifests itself in this area, toward the breaking down of race barriers in the matter of intermarriage between whites and blacks, but it does not have the sanction of the Church and is contrary to Church doctrine."(5)
Those apologizers and critics who say that the Church is unjust in refusing to permit the Negro to hold the Priesthood, might ask themselves this question:
In our society today, from which situation is the Negro suffering most: (1) In not being permitted to hold the Priesthood in the LDS Church, or (2) In having a black skin and other Negroid features, which stigmatize him in the eyes of most Whites?
The answer is obvious.
And who controls the fact of his having these Negroid features? His Creator, of course.
When God allows a spirit to take on a Negroid body, do you suppose He is unaware of the fact that he will suffer a social stigma?
Therefore, if you say this Church is unjust in not allowing the Negro to bear the Priesthood, you must, to be consistent, likewise say that God is even more unjust in giving him a black skin.
We might ask, how many of those LDS who criticize the Church for not conferring the Priesthood upon the Negro, have ever made the effort to preach the Gospel to the Negro, to bring him into the Church, to extend brotherly love and kindness to him? How many non-LDS critics are truly Christian toward the Negroes? Is it barely possible that those Mormons and non-Mormons who accuse the Church of hypocrisy in this matter are themselves the hypocrites?
Let the critic consider another question: can you name one Negro who has actually suffered by not having the privilege of bearing the Priesthood - suffered so far as social stigma or the other things of this world? Is it not possible to see an act of mercy on the part of God in not having the Negro bear the Priesthood in this world, in view of his living under the curse of a black skin and other Negroid features? When a man has the Priesthood conferred upon him, Satan redoubles his efforts to destroy that man. Just think of the weapons, the tools, that Satan would have at his command, in the prejudices of the world against the Negro. Who is to say that, in view of these factors, the Negro is not - so far as to his temporal well-being - better off not to have the Priesthood? God has said that where much is given much is required. With the social prejudice against him, imagine the obstacles that the Negro would encounter in attempting to honor and magnify his Priesthood.
I believe that we should recognize the mercy as well as the justice of God in all things. The very fact the God would allow those spirits who were less worthy in the spirit world to partake of a mortal body at all is further evidence of His mercy. Indeed, are we not all partakers of his infinite mercy and charity?
We should remember that this earth life is but an extremely short, although a very important, span of time in the eternal scheme of things. Like others, the Negro who makes the most of his opportunities in righteousness in this life, however limited those opportunities may be, will have the privilege of someday bearing the Priesthood. In this regard, the Prophet Brigham Young said:
|". . . I have endeavored to give you a few items relating to the Celestial Kingdom of God and to the other kingdoms which the Lord has prepared for His children. The Lamanites or Indians are just as much children of our Father and God as we are. So also are the Africans. But we are also the children of adoption through obedience to the Gospel of His Son. Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the Holy Priesthood and law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the Holy Priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will come up and possess the Priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we are now entitled to." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, p. 272)|
|(1) In the LDS doctrine regarding the Negro, we see a vivid illustration of the principles of free agency, fore-ordination, eternal progress, and the justice and mercy of God.
(2) We see the importance of the relationship of pre-mortal life to this life, and this life to the next; that the circumstances of our birth into this earth life are determined by our performance in the spirit world, and that our performance here will determine our fate hereafter.
(3) We should take warning by this as to the need of our being valiant and anxiously engaged in a good cause, so that we do not forfeit our birthright and annul the gain that we made in pre-mortal life.
(4) While the Negro suffers certain limitations in this world, as pertaining to the Priesthood and its attendant blessings, he can eventually have the opportunity of enjoying Priesthood membership.
(5) We should remember that the Negroes, like ourselves, are children of God, our brothers and sisters; that our Church has a record of kindliness toward the Negro; that whatever prejudice exists against him is in the mind of individuals, and certainly does not reflect Church policy.
(6) There is nothing in Church policy that forbids nor discourages us from extending brotherly Christian love to the Negro. This, however, does not and should not include intermarriage, for we would bring upon our children the curse of Cain, or rather, we would bring unto ourselves children from those spirits destined to be of the seed of Cain.
(7) We should stand united as members of the Church bearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not allowing Satan to cause doubt and contention among us on this or any other issue, for if we know the truth the truth shall make us free - free from such doubts and contentions.
(8) We should more keenly sense the great opportunity and the tremendous challenge that we have in carrying the Gospel to all the world, to "every nation, kindred, tongue and people," sharing its blessings with all who will partake.
May god help us to do this.