Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Mormonism 101/Chapter 16
Response to claims made in "Chapter 16: Lamanites, Seed of Cain, and Polygamy"
|Chapter 15: The Temple||
A FairMormon Analysis of: Mormonism 101A work by author: Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson
|Chapter 17: Joseph Smith|
- Response to claim: 233 - Joseph Fielding Smith said, "I would not want you to believe that we bear any animosity toward the Negro. 'Darkies' are wonderful people, and they have their place in our church"
- Response to claim: 234 - The authors claim that the "dark-skinned" Lamanites wiped out the "white-skinned" Nephites at the battle of Hill Cumorah
- Response to claim: 234 - In 1981 the Church changed "a white and a delightsome people" to "a pure and a delightsome people"
- Response to claim: 234 - "the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them"
- Response to claim: 235 - The author claims that Joseph Smith said that intermarriage with the Lamanites would produce a "white and delightsome posterity"
- Response to claim: 235 - Brigham Young: "the aborigines of this country are dark, loathsome, ignorant, and sunken into the depths of degradation"
- Response to claim: 236-237 - The authors claim that Brigham Young taught that unrighteousness would "result in a black skin"
- Response to claim: 237 - The authors claim that LDS believe that one's behavior in the preexistence determines race
- Response to claim: 237 - The authors provide a list of racist statements made by past Church leaders
- Response to claim: 238 - Joseph Smith: "Had I anything to do with the negro, I would confine them by strict law to their own species"
- Response to claim: 241 - Brigham Young: "If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot"
- Response to claim: 241-242 - Brigham Young said that blacks would not obtain the priesthood until the resurrection. This was reiterated by later LDS leaders
- Response to claim: 244 - The Book of Mormon condemns polygamy
- Response to claim: 245-246 - The authors claim that Mormon leaders "taught that the practice of polygamy was necessary for man to receive exaltation"
- Response to claim: 246 - The Doctrine and Covenants denied polygamy
- Response to claim: 248 - Polygamy continued to be practiced in Utah after the Manifesto
- Response to claim: 249 - "Those who practice polygamy today are probably much more consistent with the teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that condemns them"
Response to claim: 233 - Joseph Fielding Smith said, "I would not want you to believe that we bear any animosity toward the Negro. 'Darkies' are wonderful people, and they have their place in our church"
Question: Did Joseph Fielding Smith make derogatory racial comments in the 22 October 1963 issue of Look magazine?
The critics appeal to an audience that is ignorant of the abysmal history of most of Christianity's dealings on race issues
A statement by Joseph Fielding Smith in the 22 October 1963 issue of LOOK Magazine is used as an illustration of the Church's racism,
I would not want you to believe that we bear any animosity toward the Negro. "Darkies" are wonderful people, and they have their place in our church.
President Joseph Fielding Smith Look magazine, 22 October 1963, 79 [sic]
Racism has become one of the most strident and damaging accusations that can be leveled in our society, and as such has become a useful weapon for those who wish to harm an organization or individual. As Southern Baptists know, "Few chapters in American religious history prove as embarrassing as the response of the American churches to the issue of race.":33 Thus, the critics appeal to an audience that is ignorant of the abysmal history of most of Christianity's dealings on race issues. They are obviously hoping their target audience will not notice that Latter-day Saints have always had integrated churches while other Protestant churches struggle with the residual division brought about by their own prolonged discrimination or outright expulsion of black members. Emerson and Smith assess the problem in the following manner:
Our examination of a variety of data and consideration of a variety of levels of social influence suggest that many race issues that white evangelicals want to see solved are generated in part by the way they themselves do religion, interpret their world, and live their own lives. These factors range from the ways evangelicals and others organize into internally similar congregations, and the segregation and inequality such congregations help produce; to theologically rooted evangelical cultural tools, which tend to (1) minimize and individualize the race problem, (2) assign blame to blacks themselves for racial inequality, (3) obscure inequality as part of racial division, and (4) suggest unidimensional solutions to racial division.:170
LDS are, of course, not immune from the same human foibles. We, like all Christians, might wish that we had played a larger role in correcting social injustices. We must all look at our past and learn from it. But for the here and now, the LDS do have a decided advantage in our centralized leadership and our historical practice of maintaining congregations based on geographical boundaries rather than personal preference or race. Our members have never traveled past a white or black church to get to their own. We cannot fire ministers who do not succumb to the wishes of a congregation to remain racially segregated. Yet, we join all concerned followers of Christ in acknowledging that we have work ahead of us in putting aside differences accumulated through centuries of misunderstanding and intolerance.
We can only hope that the critics will desist in their racially divisive campaign against other religions. We challenge them to focus their talents on the important question of pastor Gregory E. Thomas as he says, "we must again note that a predominant pattern of church life for black churches has been that of racial separation. The question remains: why?"
Bruce R. McConkie: "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"
One statement alone, given by Bruce R. McConkie to Church seminary and institute teachers shortly after the 1978 revelation granting priesthood to all races, answers each and every objectionable statement or action that the authors can dredge up from bygone eras:
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… 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 . It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them. We now do what meridian Israel did when the Lord said the gospel should go to the gentiles. We forget all the statements that limited the gospel to the house of Israel, and we start going to the gentiles.
A Look Through LOOK Magazine: Not one article, photo, or ad in a full 154 pages of this colorful oversized magazine interrupts its perky Caucasian landscape by featuring an African-American
Now that the reader is aware of the true position of the LDS church on the subject of racism, let us review the authors' favored medium for authoritative information, LOOK magazine. It provides an excellent lesson in how easily sources can be excised from the very surroundings that explain them when the intent is to sensationalize rather than to inform.
The cover of the October 22, 1963 issue reflects the prevailing social culture of the nation. It pictures a radiant Jackie Kennedy-like woman sitting in a new car, smiling with her laughing toddler who is standing on the car seat next to her. The child is dressed in an unbuttoned red cardigan, the collar of her crisp white blouse peeks over the sweater and her pleated plaid skirt is accessorized with stylish black and white oxfords and bobby socks.
This issue highlighted new 1964 cars. The full-page ad on page 55 tells us "what every girl should know." Women of that era evidently needed to know that "the man who drives a Super Torque Ford is a man of substance" and that she should "marry him at the first opportunity."
Not one article, photo, or ad in a full 154 pages of this colorful oversized magazine interrupts its perky Caucasian landscape by featuring an African-American. They are not to be seen in ads, Catholic schoolrooms, or even on a featured college football team. Looking at this slice of life from the sixties, the only reason one would have to think blacks even lived in the United States is one photo on page 118 where a few blacks are pictured as the recipients of charity. The patronizing hypocrisy of examining one small church's "attitude toward Negroes" in this sort of environment has, of course, not yet settled into the mainstream of American consciousness.
"Memo From a Mormon: In which a troubled young man raises the question of his church's attitude toward Negroes" is an article that indicates a growing awareness by the magazine of the need to talk about "Negroes," but there is no urgent need to talk to them or with them. The article itself is well done and fairly presented from the point of view of a young man who wished an end to the practice of allowing blacks full membership but restricting them from participation in the lay priesthood. The rogue quote used by the authors is only found in the "Editor's Note" attached to the article. William B. Arthur, managing editor of LOOK, interviewed Joseph Fielding Smith, then acting president of the Council of the Twelve Apostles. The full quote, following an explanatory paragraph, is as follows:
"I stand by every word in the article," President Smith said, after reading it aloud in Mr. Arthur's presence. "The Mormon Church does not believe, nor does it teach, that the Negro is an inferior being. Mentally, and physically, the Negro is capable of great achievement, as great and in some cases greater than the potential of the white race. He can become a lawyer, a doctor, a scientist, and he can achieve great heights. The word 'inferior' is indeed unfortunate."
Mr. Arthur asked President Smith if a Negro boy can pass the sacrament in the Mormon Church, as 12- and 13-year-old white Mormon boys do. President Smith replied, "No". He then was asked whether Negro boys could prepare the sacrament, as 14- and 15-year old white Mormon boys do. The answer was "No." "Can he bless the sacrament or perform baptism, as the 16-, 17-and 18-year old white Mormon boys do?" Mr. Arthur asked. Again the reply was, "no."
"The Negro cannot achieve priesthood in the Mormon Church," President Smith said. "No consideration is being given now to changing the doctrine of the Church to permit him to attain that status. Such a change can come about only through divine revelation, and no one can predict when a divine revelation will occur.
"I wouldn't want you to believe that we bear any animosity toward the Negro. 'Darkies' are wonderful people, and they have their place in our Church.":97
Interestingly, the article ends here. However, a statement from the body of the featured article is worth noting as it pinpoints the uncomfortable situation for LOOK's selectiveness in highlighting only Mormons.
The Negro who accepts the doctrines of the Church and is baptized by an authorized minister of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is entitled to salvation in the celestial kingdom, or the highest heaven spoken of by Paul.
It is true that the work of the ministry is given to other peoples, and why should the so-called Christian denominations complain? How many Negroes have been placed as ministers over white congregations in the so-called Christian denominations?:76
A Convenient Double Standard
Perhaps the annoyance of President Smith over the double standard being applied to Mormons would be better understood if placed next to the image of Ferrell Griswold, pastor of the Minor Heights Baptist Church, addressing Klan supporters as Birmingham public schools began their first week of desegregation in the same year.:41 Would the critics really have the reader believe there were no Christian leaders among those who refused blacks their basic civil liberties and denied them entrance to their churches, schools, civic centers and voting booths? While President Smith was quoted as saying "darkie" in 1963, what were other high profile white religious leaders saying and doing to give blacks basic rights, let alone positions of leadership within their own churches? Two scholars outline how white leaders left the battle for civil rights to the black churches.
In response to King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech that his children might one day play together with white children, [Billy] Graham, who had been invited but did not attend the 1963 March on Washington, said: "Only when Christ comes again will little white children of Alabama walk hand in hand with little black children." This was not meant to be harsh, but rather what he and most white evangelicals perceived to be realistic.:47
Three years later on October 9, 1966, Martin Luther King gave his "The Pharisee and Publican" sermon to the Ebenezer Baptist Church in which he said:
So often Negroes in Mississippi and Alabama and Georgia and other places have been taken to that tree that bears strange fruit. And do you know that the folk lynching them are often big deacons in the Baptist churches and stewards in the Methodist churches feeling that by killing and murdering and lynching another human being they are doing the will of Almighty God? The most vicious oppressors of the Negro today are probably in church.
It is easy to look at the worst in one another, as the critics have chosen to do. There are enough quotes indicting every religious tradition to make any thoughtful person cringe. There are also well-researched, honest and informative books and articles available from scholars on every aspect of race and religion. So one has to ask, with so many others, why do critics persist in this course of action? What purpose does it serve for them?
The critics' barrage of the most negative and obscure data they can muster against the LDS might lead one to conclude that all other Christian churches were fully integrated with all races participating in leadership positions in 1963, or even in 1978 when blacks were given the priesthood by the LDS Church. The following quotes from varied and respected sources are provided so the reader has the appropriate historical context. They are not meant in any way to criticize other churches who are working so diligently to close the racial divide.
Virtually all Protestant denominations have separate Negro churches, and thus the areas of association for religious purposes have been very small.
By the 1830's most southern evangelicals had thoroughly repudiated a heritage that valued blacks as fellow church members.
The black Methodist church, created not from a desire to be separate but from a desire to worship without discrimination at the hands of white brethren, was to become the most enduring legacy of Methodism's refusal to accord the black communicant all of the rights and privileges of membership in the body of Christ.:318
After the war the southern churches, continuing the legacy of slavery, were among the first institutions to call for the separation of the races; by the twentieth century they had become bastions of segregation. With no desire to intrude into places where they were not welcome, most black Southerners were more comfortable in their own congregations.:293
By November 1968 a survey research by the Home Mission Board revealed that only eleven percent of Southern Baptist churches would admit African-Americans.
The most extensive research on integration was undertaken jointly by the United Lutherans, Congregational Christians, and Presbyterians (U.S.A.). They found that 1,331 out of 13,597 predominantly white churches have nonwhite members or attenders. That is just short of 10 per cent.
Still in 1964, no more than 10 per cent of the white Protestant congregations had Negroes worshiping with them. Even these 10 per cent had only a few members or occasional attenders, so that throughout the US probably no more than 1 per cent of all Negroes worshiped in integrated congregations on Sunday mornings.
According to the 1998 National Congregations Study, about 90 percent of American congregations are made up at least 90 percent of people of the same race.:136
About eighty percent of all black Christians are in seven major denominations.:68
In 1977, the American Baptist Churches in the USA had a larger number of blacks than any other non-black denomination… An interesting irony of the racial overtones still prevalent is that the American Baptist Churches of the South are now predominately a black sub-convention of the American Baptist Churches in the USA. There has been little white involvement since the influx of black Baptists.:68-69
As can be seen by this parade of statistics, the critics' talents might be more profitably spent in their own congregations rather than in pointing at the proverbial mote in their neighbor's eye.
Critics' attempt to pass off centuries of Christian belief in a "curse" as being a uniquely Mormon invention
Now let us look at the critics' stumbling attempt to pass off centuries of Christian belief in a "curse" as being a uniquely Mormon invention. The authors of Mormonism 101 ask, "If the Mormon God has removed the curse that was once on the black race, why has he not also removed the mark?" Again, we should review the widely available literature on the origins of this unfortunate concept:
This interpretation of Noah's curse was no southern invention; indeed, it had been in circulation long before the discovery of America. Even so, it proved especially useful to white masters of the South because they had been put on the defensive by the powerful emancipationist movement.
The story of Noah's Curse was so ingrained into the orthodox Protestant mind that it was sometimes invoked far from the pulpit. Speaking before the Mississippi Democratic State Convention in 1859, none other than Jefferson Davis defended chattel slavery and the foreign slave trade by alluding to the "importation of the race of Ham" as a fulfillment of its destiny to be "servant of servants.":107
Once again, the reader is left to decide whether critics are completely ignorant of the history of race theory, anthropology, and the centuries-old Christian use of the Bible to justify slavery or if they are simply race-baiting. One is truly forced to ponder this as they selectively use quotes and remove portions that may reflect positively on Mormons. They turn to such sources as little-known "Mormon writers" instead of using authoritative sources that the LDS recognize as accurately representing their beliefs. They relentlessly refuse to deal with modern Church practice and teachings that are well attested to by living leaders, preferring instead to use dated and out-of-context quotes that obviously clash with our modern social sensibilities.
Question: What was the Lamanite curse?
The Book of Mormon talks of a curse being placed upon the Lamanites
And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. 2 Nephi 5:21
It is claimed by some that the Church believed that Lamanites who accepted the Gospel would become light-skinned, and that "Mormon folklore" claims that Native Americans and Polynesians carry a curse based upon "misdeeds on the part of their ancestors."
One critic asks, "According to the Book of Mormon a dark skin is a curse imposed by God on the unrighteous and their descendants as a punishment for sin. Do you agree with that doctrine? (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 12:22-23, Alma 3:6, 2 Nephi 5:21-22, Jacob 3:8, 3 Nephi 2:15-16, Mormon 5:15; references to the "Lamanites" are taken to be referring to Native American "Indians".)" 
Although the curse of the Lamanites is often associated directly with their skin color, it may be that this was intended in a far more symbolic sense than modern American members traditionally assumed
The curse itself came upon them as a result of their rejection of the Gospel. It was possible to be subject to the curse, and to be given a mark, without it being associated with a change in skin color, as demonstrated in the case of the Amlicites. The curse is apparently a separation from the Lord. A close reading of the Book of Mormon text makes it untenable to consider that literal skin color was ever the "curse." At most, the skin color was seen as a mark, and it may well have been that these labels were far more symbolic and cultural than they were literal.
Response to claim: 234 - In 1981 the Church changed "a white and a delightsome people" to "a pure and a delightsome people"
Question: Why was the phrase "white and delightsome" changed to "pure and delightsome" in the 1840 edition of the Book of Mormon?
This change was originally made in the 1840 edition, lost, and then restored again in the 1981 edition
This change was originally made in the 1840 edition but because subsequent editions were based off the European editions (which followed the 1837 edition), the change did not get perpetuated until the preparation of the 1981 edition. The change is not (as the critics want to portray it) a "recent" change designed to remove a "racist" original.
The idea that the Church has somehow "hidden" the original text or manuscripts of the Book of Mormon in order to hide this is simply unbelievable. Replicas of the 1830 Book of Mormon are easily obtained on Amazon.com, and the text is freely available online. In addition, Royal Skousen has extensively studied the original Book of Mormon manuscripts and published a critical text edition of the Book of Mormon. The claim by the critics that the Church has somehow hidden these items is seriously outdated.
The change in the 1840 edition was probably made by Joseph Smith
This change actually first appeared in the 1840 edition, and was probably made by Joseph Smith:
- 2 Nephi 30:6 (1830 edition, italics added): "...they shall be a white and a delightsome people."
- 2 Nephi 30:6 (1840 edition, italics added): "...they shall be a pure and a delightsome people."
The 1837 edition was used for the European editions, which were in turn used as the basis for the 1879 and 1920 editions, so the change was lost until the 1981 edition
This particular correction is part of the changes referred to in the note "About this Edition" printed in the introductory pages:
"Some minor errors in the text have been perpetuated in past editions of the Book of Mormon. This edition contains corrections that seem appropriate to bring the material into conformity with prepublication manuscripts and early editions edited by the Prophet Joseph Smith."
It’s doubtful that Joseph Smith had racism in mind when the change was done in 1840 or other similar verses would have been changed as well.
The "pure" meaning likely reflected the original intent of the passage and translator
Furthermore, "white" was a synonym for "pure" at the time Joseph translated the Book of Mormon:
3. Having the color of purity; pure; clean; free from spot; as white robed innocence....5. Pure; unblemished....6. In a scriptural sense, purified from sin; sanctified. Psalm 51.
Thus, the "pure" meaning likely reflected the original intent of the passage and translator.
Response to claim: 234 - "the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them"
Question: What are the "curse of Cain" and the "curse of Ham"?
There is a distinction between the “curse” and the “mark” of Cain
The "curse of Cain" resulted in Cain being cut off from the presence of the Lord. The Genesis and Moses accounts both attest to this. The Book of Mormon teaches this principle in general when it speaks about those who keep the commandments will prosper in the land, while those who don't will be cut off from the presence off the Lord. This type of curse was applied to the Lamanites when they rejected the teachings of the prophets.
The exact nature of the "mark" of Cain, on the other hand, is unknown. The scriptures don't say specifically what it was, except that it was for Cain's protection, so that those finding him wouldn't slay him. Many people, both in an out of the Church, have assumed that the mark and the curse are the same thing.
Question: When did a biblical curse become associated with the "Hamites?"
The origin of the "curse of Ham" pre-dates the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by hundreds of years
The basis used is Genesis 9:18-27:
- 18 And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan.
- 19 These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread.
- 20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
- 21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
- 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
- 23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.
- 24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
- 25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
- 26 And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
- 27 God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
- Genesis 9:18-27 (emphasis added)
Although these verses clearly state that Canaan is cursed, it is not clear that the curse would be extended to his descendants. The use of Genesis 9 to associate a biblical curse with the descendants of Ham actually began in the third and fourth centuries A.D.  This "curse" became associated with the Canaanites. Origen, an early Christian scholar and theologian, makes reference to Ham's "discolored posterity" and the "ignobility of the race he fathered."  Likewise, Augustine and Ambrose of Milan speculated that the descendants of Ham carried a curse that was associated with a darkness of skin. This concept was shared among Jews, Muslims and Christians. The first "racial justification" for slavery appeared in the fifteenth century in Spain and Portugal. In the American colonies, the "curse of Ham" was being used in the late 1600's to justify the practice of slavery.  As author Stephen R. Haynes puts it, "Noah's curse had become a stock weapon in the arsenal of slavery's apologists, and references to Genesis 9 appeared prominently in their publications." 
Question: When did the "mark of Cain" become associated with black skin?
The biblical “mark of Cain” associated with black skin by Protestants to justify slavery
The idea that the “mark of Cain” and the "curse of Ham" was a black skin is something that was used by many Protestants as a way to morally and biblically justify slavery. This idea did not originate with Latter-day Saints, although the existence of the priesthood ban prior to 1978 tends to cause some people to assume that it was a Latter-day Saint concept.
Dr. Benjamin M. Palmer, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in New Orleans from 1856 until 1902, was a "moving force" in the Southern Presbyterian church during that period. Palmer believed that the South's cause during the Civil War was supported by God. Palmer believed the Hebrew history supported the concept that God had intended for some people to be formed "apart from others" and placed in separate territories in order to "prevent admixture of races."  Palmer claimed that, "[t]he descendants of Ham, on the contrary, in whom the sensual and corporeal appetites predominate, are driven like an infected race beyond the deserts of Sahara, where under a glowing sky nature harmonized with their brutal and savage disposition."  Palmer declared:
Upon Ham was pronounced the doom of perpetual servitude—proclaimed with double emphasis, as it is twice repeated that he shall be the servant of Japheth and the servant of Shem. Accordingly, history records not a single example of any member of this group lifting itself, by any process of self-development, above the savage condition. From first to last their mental and moral characteristics, together with the guidance of Providence, have marked them for servitude; while their comparative advance in civilization and their participation in the blessings of salvation, have ever been suspended upon this decreed connexion [sic] with Japhet [sic] and with Shem. 
Unfortunately, among some, the Protestant concept that God has separated people by race has persisted even into modern times.
God has separated people for His own purpose. He has erected barriers between the nations, not only land and sea barriers, but also ethnic, cultural, and language barriers. God has made people different one from another and intends those differences to remain. (Letter to James Landrith from Bob Jones University, 1998) 
Question: How did the "curse of Ham" or "curse of Cain" become associated with Mormonism?
Early members of the Church brought this culturally-conditioned belief in the "curse of Ham" with them into Mormonism
Prior to 1978, the doctrinal folklore that blacks are the descendants of Cain and Ham and that they carry the “mark of Cain” was a belief among some members of the Church, and is occasionally heard even today. The dubious “folk doctrine” in question is no longer even relevant, since it was used to incorrectly explain and justify a Church policy that was reversed over thirty years ago. Prior to the 1978 revelation, however, the Saints used the “mark of Cain” to explain the policy of denying priesthood ordination to those of African descent—a policy for which no revelatory prophetic explanation was ever actually given.
Early members of the Church were, for the most part, converts from Protestant sects. It is understandable that they naturally brought this culturally-conditioned belief in the "curse of Ham" with them into Mormonism. Many modern members of the Church, for instance, are unaware that Joseph Smith ordained at least one African-American man to the priesthood: Elijah Abel.
At some point during Brigham Young's administration, the priesthood ban was initiated. No revelation, if there ever was one, was published, although many throughout the history of the Church have assumed that the reason for the ban must be that blacks were the cursed seed of Cain, and therefore not allowed the priesthood (usually stemming from a misreading of Abraham 1). The correct answer as to why the ban was put into place is: we don't know. For further information on the priesthood ban, see Blacks and the priesthood.
Bruce R. McConkie in 1978, after the revelation granting blacks the priesthood:
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 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. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. 
Prior to this statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie in 1978, the doctrinal folklore that blacks are the descendants of Cain and Ham and that they carry the “mark of Cain” was a belief among some members of the Church, and is occasionally heard even today. The dubious “folk doctrine” in question is no longer even relevant, since it was used to incorrectly explain and justify a Church policy that was reversed over thirty years ago. Prior to the 1978 revelation, however, the Saints used the “mark of Cain” to explain the policy of denying priesthood ordination to those of African descent—a policy for which no revelation or prophetic explanation was ever actually given.
The speculation was that in the premortal existence, certain spirits were set aside to come to Earth through a lineage that was cursed and marked, first by Cain’s murder of his brother and covenant with Satan (Genesis 4:11–15; Moses 5:23–25, Moses 5:36–40), and then again later by Ham’s offense against his father Noah. The reasons why this lineage was set apart weren’t clear, but it was speculated they were somehow less valiant than their premortal brethren during the war in heaven. In this life, then, the holy priesthood was to be withheld from all who had had any trace of that lineage.
As neat and coherent as that scenario might seem, the scriptures typically cited in its support cannot logically be interpreted this way unless one starts with the priesthood ban itself and then works backward, looking for scriptures to support a predetermined belief.
Question: Did the Church suppress a revelation given to Joseph Smith in 1831 which encouraged the implementation of polygamy by intermarriage with the Indians in order to make them a “white and delightsome” people?
The only evidence for this revelation is a letter written by W. W. Phelps in 1861 in which he recounts from memory some of Joseph's comments in Independence, Missouri, on 17 July 1831
It is claimed that the church "suppressed" a 1831 revelation in which the Church was commanded to make the Indians a “white and delightsome” people through polygamous intermarriage. The basis for this claim is a letter written by W. W. Phelps in 1861 (30 years after the revelation was said to have been given) in which he recounts from memory some of Joseph's comments in Independence, Missouri, on 17 July 1831. At present, the only evidence that an 1831 revelation was given is the 1861 document written by Phelps.
According to critics, Joseph Fielding Smith, who was Church historian at the time, stated that the principle of plural marriage was revealed to Joseph Smith in a revelation given in July 1831. Critic Fawn Brodie claims that Joseph Fielding Smith told her about the revelation but would not allow her to see it. Critics conclude that the “real reason” that the revelation was not released was because it commanded Church members to marry the Indians in order to make them a “white and delightsome” people.
The text of W. W. Phelps' 1861 recollection of the revelation
In 1861, 30 years after it was said to have been given, W. W. Phelps wrote from memory his recollection of what he claimed was the revelation given in 1831 by the Prophet:
Part of a revelation by Joseph Smith Jr. given over the boundary, west of Jackson Co. Missouri, on Sunday morning, July 17, 1831, when Seven Elders, viz: Joseph Smith, Jr., Oliver Cowdery, W. W. Phelps, Martin Harris, Joseph Coe, Ziba Peterson, and Joshua Lewis united their hearts in prayer, in a private place, to inquire of the Lord who should preach the first sermon to the remnants of the Lamanites and Nephites, and the people of that Section, that should assemble that day in the Indian country, to hear the gospel, and the revelations according to the Book of Mormon.
Among the company, there being neither pen, ink or paper, Joseph remarked that the Lord could preserve his words as he had ever done, till the time appointed, and proceeded:
Verily, verily, saith the Lord your Redeemer, even Jesus Christ, the light and the life of the world, ye can not discerne with your natural eyes, the design and the purpose of your Lord and your God, in bringing you thus far into the wilderness for a trial of your faith, and to be especial witnesses, to bear testimony of this land, upon which the Zion of God shall be built up in the last days, when it is redeemed. …
[I]t is my will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites, that their posterity may become white, delightsome, and Just, for even now their females are more virtuous than the gentiles.
Gird up your loins and be prepared for the mighty work of the Lord to prepare the world for my second coming to meet the tribes of Israel according to the predictions of all the holy prophets since the beginning; …
Be patient, therefore, possessing your souls in peace and love, and keep the faith that is now delivered unto you for the gathering of scattered Israel, and lo, I am with you, though ye cannot see me, till I come: even so. Amen.
Phelp's wrote his note 30 years after the revelation was said to have been given, after polygamy had been openly practiced for a number of years
A note written by W. W. Phelps in the 1861 document implies that marriage with the Indians coincided with Joseph Smith's planned intent to institute polygamy.
About three years after this was given, I asked brother Joseph, privately, how "we," that were mentioned in the revelation could take wives of the "natives" as we were all married men? He replied instantly "In the same manner that Abraham took Hagar and Keturah; and Jacob took Rachel, Bilhah and Zilpah; by revelation—the saints of the Lord are always directed by revelation."
It is important to note that Phelps wrote his note 30 years after the revelation was said to have been given, after polygamy had been openly practiced for a number of years.
Question: Was Ezra Booth commanded to take a wife from among the Indians?
The only contemporary report of a possible revelation on marriage with the Indians was written in a letter to the Ohio Star on 8 December, 1831 by Ezra Booth
The only contemporary report of a possible revelation on marriage with the Indians was written in a letter to the Ohio Star on 8 December, 1831 by Ezra Booth, who had apostatized from the Church. This letter was republished in Eber D. Howe's anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed. Booth states that,
...it has been made known by revelation, that it will be pleasing to the Lord, should they form a matrimonial alliance with the natives; and by this means the Elders, who comply with the thing so pleasing to the Lord, and for which the Lord has promised to bless those who do it abundantly, gain a residence in the Indian territory, independent of the agent....
Booth makes no mention of polygamy, and instead implies that the "matrimonial alliance" was for the purpose of gaining "residence" in the Indian territory
Booth makes no mention of polygamy, and instead implies that the "matrimonial alliance" was for the purpose of gaining "residence" in the Indian territory. One would think that if Booth, given his opposition to the Church at the time, had been aware of something as controversial as a proposal that polygamy be instituted among the Indians, that he would have been highly motivated to proclaim this in a public forum. In fact, Booth actually states that in order to marry one of the natives, that one elder needed to be "free from his wife." Booth does go on to say:
...It has been made known to one, who has left his wife in the State of New York, that he is entirely free from his wife, and he is at pleasure to take him a wife from among the Lamanites. It was easily perceived that this permission was perfectly suited to his desires. I have frequently heard him state that the Lord had made it known to him, that he is as free from his wife as from any other woman; and the only crime I have ever heard alleged against her is, she is violently opposed to Mormonism. But before this contemplated marriage can be carried into effect, he must return to the State of New York and settle his business, for fear, should he return after that affair had taken place, the civil authority would apprehend him as a criminal (emphasis added).
This quote implies that it was not to be a polygamous union.
It was always implied that the process of becoming "white and delightsome" was to be achieved through the power of God—not through intermarriage
There are quotes from Church leaders indicating that they believed that the Indians were becoming "white and delightsome." However, it was always implied that the process of becoming "white and delightsome" was to be achieved through the power of God—not through intermarriage. Critics cite a statement made by Spencer W. Kimball in the October 1960 General Conference, 15 years before he became president of the Church:
- I saw a striking contrast in the progress of the Indian people today ... they are fast becoming a white and delightsome people.... For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised.... The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation.
Although this is an interesting statement by President Kimball, it has nothing whatsoever to do with polygamy or intermarriage with the Indians. It is simply President Kimball’s own observation that he felt that the Indians were becoming a “white and delightsome” people through the power of God. Then-Elder Kimball was likely unaware that Joseph Smith had edited the Book of Mormon text in 1837 to say "pure and delightsome," possibly to counter the idea that the change referred to was predominantly physical, rather than spiritual. This change was lost in future LDS versions of the Book of Mormon until 1981.
There is no evidence that the instructions contained in the revelation regarding intermarriage with the Native Americans were actually implemented
There is no contemporary evidence, other than that provided by Booth, that anyone was even aware of the revelation at the time that it was supposed to have been given. The only evidence that a revelation was even given is the 1861 document by W. W. Phelps, which he recalled word-for-word from memory 30 years later at a time when the Church was actively and publicly justifying the practice of polygamy.
It is also interesting to note that the typical critical argument against polygamy is that a revelation on polygamy was not received until 1843 and that prior to that time that Joseph Smith was living in adultery with his plural wives. Yet, in this case, the critics are perfectly content to argue the case for a revelation on polygamy actually existing in 1831 as long as it can be tied to making the Native Americans a "white and delightsome" people. While there is evidence that Joseph was discussing plural marriage by 1831, it is difficult to believe that Phelps' text is an exact rendition of any revelation Joseph may have shared with him.
Response to claim: 235 - Brigham Young: "the aborigines of this country are dark, loathsome, ignorant, and sunken into the depths of degradation"
Question: Was the idea that Blacks were neutral in the "war in heaven" ever official doctrine?
The "neutral in the war in heaven" argument was never doctrine. In fact, some Church leaders, starting with Brigham Young, explicitly repudiated the idea
This idea was repudiated well before the priesthood ban was rescinded. President Brigham Young rejected it in an account recorded by Wilford Woodruff in 1869:
Lorenzo Young asked if the Spirits of Negroes were Nutral in Heaven. He said someone said Joseph Smith said they were. President Young said No they were not. There was No Nutral spirits in Heaven at the time of the Rebelion. All took sides. He said if any one said that He Herd the Prophet Joseph Say that the spirits of the Blacks were Nutral in Heaven He would not Believe them for He herd Joseph Say to the Contrary. All spirits are pure that Come from the presence of God. The posterity of Cane are Black Because He Commit Murder. He killed Abel & God set a Mark upon his posterity But the spirits are pure that Enter their tabernacles & there will be a Chance for the redemption of all the Children of Adam Except the Sons of perdition. 
The First Presidency under Joseph F. Smith also rejected this idea
there is no revelation, ancient or modern, neither is there any authoritative statement by any of the authorities of the Church … [in support of the idea] that the negroes are those who were neutral in heaven at the time of the great conflict or war, which resulted in the casting out of Lucifer and those who were led by him. 
Joseph Smith never taught the idea that those born with black skin were "neutral" during the war in heaven
Brigham Young, when asked this question, repudiated the idea. Wilford Woodruff recorded the following in his journal:
December 25, 1869: I attended the School of the Prophets. Many questions were asked. President Young answered them. Lorenzo Young asked if the spirits of Negroes were neutral in heaven. He said someone said Joseph Smith said they were. President Young said no they were not. There were no neutral spirits in heaven at the time of the rebellion. All took sides. He said if anyone said that he heard the Prophet Joseph say that the spirits of the Blacks were neutral in heaven, he would not believe them, for he heard Joseph say to the contrary. All spirits are pure that come from the presence of God. The posterity of Cain are black because he commit[ted] murder. He killed Abel and God set a mark upon his posterity. But the spirits are pure that enter their tabernacles and there will be a chance for the redemption of all the children of Adam except the sons of perdition. 
The idea that anyone who came to earth was "neutral" in the premortal existence is not a doctrine of the Church. Early Church leaders had a variety of opinions regarding the status of blacks in the pre-existence, and some of these were expressed in an attempt to explain the priesthood ban. The scriptures, however, do not explicitly state that the status or family into which we were born on earth had anything to do with our "degree of valiance" in our pre-mortal life.
Other religions would not have had reason for such a teaching because they do not believe in the pre-existence or the "war in heaven."
The scriptures themselves do not state that anyone was neutral in the pre-existence.
Question: Did Church leaders ever teach that Blacks were neutral in the "war in heaven?"
Yes, some Church leaders promoted the idea as a way to explain the priesthood ban
Despite the explicit denial of this concept by Brigham Young, the idea that people born with black skin as a result of their behavior in the pre-existence was used by several 20th century Church leaders in order to try and provide an explanation for the priesthood ban.
The First Presidency, in a statement issued on August 17, 1949, actually attributed the ban to "conduct of spirits in the premortal existence"
The First Presidency stated in 1949:
The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the Church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality. 
Joseph Fielding Smith said in 1954 that there were no "neutrals in the war in heaven," but that rewards in this life may have "reflected actions taken in the pre-existence
In the 1954 book Doctrines of Salvation (compiled by Bruce R. McConkie), Joseph Fielding Smith stated that "there were no neutrals in the war in heaven," but suggested that the rewards received in this life reflected actions taken in the pre-existence:
NO NEUTRALS IN HEAVEN. There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body. The Negro, evidently, is receiving the reward he merits. 
Bruce R. McConkie said in 1966 that they were "less valiant" in the pre-existence
The most well known of these was the statement made by Bruce R. McConkie in his book Mormon Doctrine. McConkie offered the following opinion:
Those who were less valiant in the pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality are known to us as the negroes. Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God and his murder of Abel being a black skin...but this inequality is not of man’s origin. It is the Lord’s doing, based on His eternal laws of justice, and grows out of the lack of spiritual valiance of those concerned in their first estate. 
These statements by Church leaders reflected ideas which were prevalent in society during the 1950s and 1960s
These statements by 20th century leaders did not represent thinking that was unique to the Church, but instead reflected ideas which were much more prevalent in society during the 1950's and 1960's.
When the priesthood ban was lifted in 1978, McConkie retracted what he had said previously
Elder McConkie retracted his previous statements regarding the priesthood ban when it was lifted in 1978:
Forget everything I have said, or what...Brigham Young...or whomsoever has said...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. 
Question: Did the Church repudiate the idea of neutrality in the "war in heaven?"
President Kimball was reported as repudiating this idea following the 1978 revelation
Some members and leaders explained the ban as congruent with the justice of God by suggesting that those who were denied the priesthood had done something in the pre-mortal life to deny themselves the priesthood. President Kimball was reported as repudiating this idea following the 1978 revelation:
President Kimball "flatly [stated] that Mormonism no longer holds to...a theory" that Blacks had been denied the priesthood "because they somehow failed God during their pre-existence." 
The modern Church rejects this theory
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. 
Modern Church leaders teach that everyone who came to earth in this day was "valiant" in the premortal existence
Elder M. Russell Ballard, talking of today's youth, said in 2005:
Remind them that they are here at this particular time in the history of the world, with the fulness of the gospel at their fingertips, because they made valiant choices in the premortal existence. 
Gospel Topics: "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"
"Race and the Priesthood," Gospel Topics on LDS.org:
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.
Since that day in 1978, the Church has looked to the future, as membership among Africans, African Americans and others of African descent has continued to grow rapidly. While Church records for individual members do not indicate an individual’s race or ethnicity, the number of Church members of African descent is now in the hundreds of thousands.
The Church proclaims that redemption through Jesus Christ is available to the entire human family on the conditions God has prescribed. It affirms that God is “no respecter of persons”24 and emphatically declares that anyone who is righteous—regardless of race—is favored of Him. The teachings of the Church in relation to God’s children are epitomized by a verse in the second book of Nephi: “[The Lord] denieth none that cometh unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; . . . all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.—(Click here to continue)
Gordon B. Hinckley: "I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ"
Gordon B. Hinckley,
Racial strife still lifts its ugly head. I am advised that even right here among us there is some of this. I cannot understand how it can be. It seemed to me that we all rejoiced in the 1978 revelation given President Kimball. I was there in the temple at the time that that happened. There was no doubt in my mind or in the minds of my associates that what was revealed was the mind and the will of the Lord.
Now I am told that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are sometimes heard among us. I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ. How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color is ineligible?
Throughout my service as a member of the First Presidency, I have recognized and spoken a number of times on the diversity we see in our society. It is all about us, and we must make an effort to accommodate that diversity.
Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.
Brethren, there is no basis for racial hatred among the priesthood of this Church. If any within the sound of my voice is inclined to indulge in this, then let him go before the Lord and ask for forgiveness and be no more involved in such. —(Click here to continue) 
Bruce R. McConkie: "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"
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.... 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 . It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them. We now do what meridian Israel did when the Lord said the gospel should go to the gentiles. We forget all the statements that limited the gospel to the house of Israel, and we start going to the gentiles.
While Elder McConkie likely was limiting his remarks to mistakes made by past leaders in regards to the timing of the lifting of the ban, application of his insights can arguably be extended to a forgetting of all harmful "folk doctrines" about which post-1978 correlated church materials are either silent or have effectively corrected.
Question: How have modern Church leaders reacted to the speculations of the past regarding the reason for the priesthood ban?
Modern Church leaders have advised us to avoid speculating without knowledge
Elder Dallin H. Oaks pointed out that some leaders and members had ill-advisedly sought to provide justifications for the ban:
...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.
Interviewed for a PBS special on the Church, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said:
One clear-cut position is that the folklore must never be perpetuated. ... I have to concede to my earlier colleagues. ... They, I'm sure, in their own way, were doing the best they knew to give shape to [the policy], to give context for it, to give even history to it. All I can say is however well intended the explanations were, I think almost all of them were inadequate and/or wrong. ...
It probably would have been advantageous to say nothing, to say we just don't know, and, [as] with many religious matters, whatever was being done was done on the basis of faith at that time. But some explanations were given and had been given for a lot of years. ... At the very least, there should be no effort to perpetuate those efforts to explain why that doctrine existed. I think, to the extent that I know anything about it, as one of the newer and younger ones to come along, ... we simply do not know why that practice, that policy, that doctrine was in place.
Past leaders are not alive to apologize for statements that unwittingly contributed to difficulties for the faithful and stumbling blocks for those who might have otherwise have been more attracted to the overall goodness of Christ's gospel. Presumably they would join with another voice from the dust to plead for us to have charity towards them (Ether 12:35-36) despite their imperfections. Rather than condemning, we ought to "give thanks unto God...that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been" (Mormon 9:31).
Tolerance and equality are commanded
In 1972, Harold B. Lee cautioned:
We are having come into the Church now many people of various nationalities. We in the Church must remember that we have a history of persecution, discrimination against our civil rights, and our constitutional privileges being withheld from us. These who are members of the Church, regardless of their color, their national origin, are members of the church and kingdom of God. Some of them have told us that they are being shunned. There are snide remarks. We are withdrawing ourselves from them in some cases.
Now we must extend the hand of fellowship to men everywhere, and to all who are truly converted and who wish to join the Church and partake of the many rewarding opportunities to be found therein. We ask the Church members to strive to emulate the example of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, who gave us the new commandment that we should love one another. I wish we could remember that.
Question: How is it possible for a Church leader or prophet to have been influenced by racism, yet be consistent with the Lord not allowing prophets to lead the Church astray?
The goal of the Church is to bring people unto Christ
This is a difficult question. At face value, the idea that the Lord will not allow prophets to lead us astray seems to be in direct conflict with the Church acknowledging that early Church leaders and prophets were influenced by certain racist tendencies of their times. For example, how could the Priesthood ban have been implemented and yet be consistent with the prophets "not leading the Church astray?".
The first thing we must do is step back and see what the Church and prophets are all about.
What is the goal of the church?
According to Spencer W. Kimball, and reaffirmed by the other prophets it is as follows:
First, to proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people; Secondly, to perfect the Saints by preparing them to receive the ordinances of the gospel and by instruction and discipline to gain exaltation; Thirdly, to redeem the dead by performing vicarious ordinances of the gospel for those who have lived on the earth. (See Ensign, May 1981, p. 5.) All three are part of one work—to assist our Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ, in their grand and glorious mission “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39.) I renew that declaration today. 
The purpose of the Gospel is to bring people to Jesus Christ. The Church is the organization that Jesus set up on the Earth to bring people back to Jesus and back to God so we can be joint heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:17.)
The prophets will not lead the Church astray from the mission of leading people to Christ: This does not exempt prophets from saying or doing things that are incorrect
Will the prophets lead us astray from this mission. No. They won't. They will keep us on that path and we should follow them.
Will they say things, do things, and even make policy that isn't the best, or even is incorrect. Certainly. Just as one example, Joseph Fielding Smith did not believe that men would even go to the moon. He stated in the first edition of Answers to Gospel Questions,
Naturally the wonders in the heavens that man has created will be numbered among the signs which have been predicted—the airplanes, the guided missiles, and man-made planets that revolve around the earth. Keep it in mind, however, that such man-made planets belong to this earth, and it is doubtful that man will ever be permitted to make any instrument or ship to travel through space and visit the moon or any distant planet.
He later accepted a flag from the Apollo astronauts. When asked about this by a reporter, he stated, "Well, I was wrong, wasn't I?"
In Jonah chapter 3 it says,
4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
But Nineveh wasn't overthrown. The people repented and the Lord spared them. This really upset Jonah. (This doesn't even get into the fact that he first ran away.)
The Lord uses imperfect people to run his Church
The Lord uses imperfect people to run his Church. He has promised he will make it all right in the end.
Karl G. Maeser taught:
On one occasion he was going with a group of young missionaries across the alps. They were crossing a high mountain pass on foot. There were long sticks stuck into the snow of the glacier to mark the path so that travelers could find their way safely across the glacier and down the mountain on the other side.
When they reached the summit, Brother Maeser wanted to teach the young elders a lesson. He stopped at the pinnacle of the mountain and pointed to those sticks that they had followed. And he said, “Brethren, behold the priesthood of God. They are just common old sticks, but it’s the position that counts. Follow them and you will surely be safe. Stray from them and you will surely be lost.” And so it is in the Church. We are called to leadership positions and given the power of the priesthood. And we are just common old sticks, but the position we are given counts. It is separate and apart from us, but while we hold it, we hold it. 
If we go in with the expectation that the prophets will never do or say anything wrong, we will be disappointed
If we go in with the expectation that the prophets will never do or say anything wrong, we will be disappointed. There are more examples of this than the one you gave. Even Joseph Smith was reprimanded by God on more than one occasion.
Just a few examples from history (There are also reprimands in the D&C) They started doing Baptism for the dead in the river in Nauvoo - until God stopped them. They started doing sealings of adoption- until God stopped them. Why didn't God stop the race issue? He did...but He just did it later in his time frame for His purpose.
So again, If we go in with the expectation that the prophets will never do or say anything wrong, we will be disappointed. Prophets are learning and are being taught just as we are learning and being taught. Bruce R. McConkie stated that quite clearly. 
But, if we go in with the expectation that the prophets will keep us on the Gospel path, complete with the ordinances we need to return to our Heavenly Father, then we will know that the prophets will never lead us astray.
In John 6, Jesus taught hard things:
66 ¶From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
We will get things wrong, because we are NOT Jesus Christ: He allows us to learn as we go along
Jesus has taught the words of eternal life. This is his Church. We will get things wrong, because we are NOT Jesus Christ. He allows us to learn as we go along. The prophets will not lead us astray from that goal of eternal life.
I also fall back onto the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. In my mind, the evidence is very clear. Joseph Smith could not have written the Book of Mormon in 1830. Nobody could have done that. There were things that Joseph Smith and scholars of the day did not know that are contained in the book. They would have written the opposite based on the science of the day.
If the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. It also means we have a prophet today. Will they lead us astray? Is that statement even true that they won't? The prophets will not lead us astray from the Gospel path. Can they be incorrect on other issues-even involving the Church? Yes, they can. But, that isn't why we have a prophet. We have a prophet to help us return to our Heavenly Father. As such, we follow him. God will make it all right in our eternal lives.
Response to claim: 238 - Joseph Smith: "Had I anything to do with the negro, I would confine them by strict law to their own species"
Response to claim: 241 - Brigham Young: "If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot"
Response to claim: 241-242 - Brigham Young said that blacks would not obtain the priesthood until the resurrection. This was reiterated by later LDS leaders
Response to claim: 244 - The Book of Mormon condemns polygamy
Question: Does the Book of Mormon condemn polygamy?
"For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things"
Jacob 2:24-29 states:
24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.
25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.
26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.
27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;
28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.
29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.
Critics of the Book of Mormon generally refrain from citing the very next verse:
30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things. (Jacob 2:30).
The Book of Mormon makes it clear that the Lord may, under some circumstances, command the practice of plural marriage. As one member of the Church explained:
Jacob 2:30 is the key verse for understanding why Mormons believe that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other nineteenth-century Mormons were justified in their practice of polygamy, but that this is the exception to the Lord's law, not the rule.... Mormons believe that the period when polygamy was publicly sanctioned (1852–1890)—and the longer period in which it was privately approved (the early 1830s to 1904)—were exceptions to God's basic law that Jacob spelled out in verse 27.
Question: Is plural marriage required in order to achieve exaltation?
Brigham Young said "The only men who become Gods, even the sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy"
Critics of the Church point to a statement made by Brigham Young to make the claim that Latter-day Saints believe that one must practice plural marriage in order to achieve exaltation:  Brigham Young once said,
The only men who become Gods, even the sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy" (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:269.)
This quotation is often used in anti-Mormon sources. They do not include the surrounding text which explains what Brigham Young had in mind on this occasion (italics show text generally not cited by those trying to worry modern-day readers):
Brigham Young also said "if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith"
We wish to obtain all that father Abraham obtained. I wish here to say to the Elders of Israel, and to all the members of this Church and kingdom, that it is in the hearts of many of them to wish that the doctrine of polygamy was not taught and practiced by us...It is the word of the Lord, and I wish to say to you, and all the world, that if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith, or you will come short of enjoying the salvation and the glory which Abraham has obtained. This is as true as that God lives. You who wish that there were no such thing in existence, if you have in your hearts to say: "We will pass along in the Church without obeying or submitting to it in our faith or believing this order, because, for aught that we know, this community may be broken up yet, and we may have lucrative offices offered to us; we will not, therefore, be polygamists lest we should fail in obtaining some earthly honor, character and office, etc,"—the man that has that in his heart, and will continue to persist in pursuing that policy, will come short of dwelling in the presence of the Father and the Son, in celestial glory. The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessings offered unto them, and they refused to accept them.
Brigham was stating that the command to practice plural marriage was from God, and it is wrong to seek to abolish a command from God
It is clear that Brigham was making several points which the critics ignore:
- The command to practice plural marriage is from God, and it is wrong to seek to abolish a command from God.
- To obtain the blessings of Abraham, the Saints were required to be "polygamists at least in your faith": i.e., it was not necessary that each enter into plural marriage in practice, but that they accept that God spoke to His prophets.
- It was wrong to avoid plural marriage for worldly, selfish reasons, such as believing the Church would fail, and hoping to have political or monetary rewards afterward.
- Faithful Saints cannot expect to receive "all that the Father has" if they willfully disobey God. When the people have "had blessings offered unto them," and if they refuse to obey, God will withhold blessings later because of that disobedience now.
Finally, it must be remembered that Brigham Young is speaking to a group who had been commanded to live the law of polygamy. There is no basis for speculating about what he would have said to a group who did not have that commandment given to them, as present-day members do not.
Question: Did Brigham Young believe that one could not enter the Celestial Kingdom unless they were a polygamist?
Wilford Woodruff: "President Young said there would be men saved in the Celestial Kingdom of God with one wife with Many wives & with No wife at all"
I attended the school of the prophets. Brother John Holeman made a long speech upon the subject of Poligamy. He Contended that no person Could have a Celestial glory unless He had a plurality of wives. Speeches were made By L. E. Harrington O Pratt Erastus Snow, D Evans J. F. Smith Lorenzo Young. President Young said there would be men saved in the Celestial Kingdom of God with one wife with Many wives & with No wife at all.
Wilford Woodruff: President Young...said a Man may Embrace the Law of Celestial Marriage in his heart & not take the Second wife & be justified before the Lord
Then President Young spoke 58 Minuts. He said a Man may Embrace the Law of Celestial Marriage in his heart & not take the Second wife & be justified before the Lord.
Seminary Teacher Resource Manual: "We have no knowledge that plural marriage will be a requirement for exaltation"
"Doctrine and Covenants 132," Seminary Teacher Resource Manual on LDS.org:
Note: Avoid sensationalism and speculation when talking about plural marriage. Sometimes teachers speculate that plural marriage will be a requirement for all who enter the celestial kingdom. We have no knowledge that plural marriage will be a requirement for exaltation.
Response to claim: 246 - The Doctrine and Covenants denied polygamy=
Question: Why did the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants include a statement of marriage that denied the practice of polygamy at a time when some were actually practicing it?
Polygamy was not being taught to the general Church membership at that time
The Article on Marriage was printed in the 1835 D&C as section 101 and in the 1844 D&C as section 109. The portion of the Article on Marriage relevant to polygamy states:
Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. 
This was true—the Church membership generally was not being taught plural marriage, and were not living it at that time.
The statement itself was not changed between the 1835 and 1844 editions of the D&C
In fact, the statement remained in the D&C until the 1876 edition, even though plural marriage had been taught to specific individuals since at least 1831, practiced in secret since 1836, and practiced openly since 1852. The matter of not removing it in 1852 was simply due to the fact that a new edition of the D&C was not published until 1876.
The available evidence suggests that Joseph Smith supported its publication
While some have suggested that the article was published against Joseph's wishes or without his knowledge, the available evidence suggests that he supported its publication. It was likely included to counter the perception that the Mormon's practice of communal property (the "law of consecration") included a community of wives.
The statement was not a revelation given to Joseph Smith - it was written by Oliver Cowdery
This statement was not a revelation given to Joseph Smith—it was written by Oliver Cowdery and introduced to a conference of the priesthood at Kirtland on 17 August 1835. Cowdery also wrote a statement of belief on government that has been retained in our current edition of the D&C as section 134. Both were sustained at the conference and included in the 1835 D&C, which was already at the press and ready to be published. Joseph Smith was preaching in Michigan at the time Oliver and W.W. Phelps introduced these two articles to the conference; it is not known if he approved of their addition to the D&C at the time, although he did retain them in the 1844 Nauvoo edition, which argues that he was not opposed to them. (Phelps read the article on marriage, while Cowdery read the one on government.) 
Some have suggested that the manner in which the conference was called suggests that Joseph was not the instigator of it, since it seems to have been done quite quickly, with relatively few high church leaders in attendance:
The General Assembly, which may have been announced on only twenty-four hours' notice, was held Monday, August 17[, 1835]. Its spur-of-the-moment nature is demonstrated by observing that a puzzling majority of Church leaders were absent. Missing from the meeting were all of the Twelve Apostles, eight of the twelve Kirtland High Council members nine of the twelve Missouri High Council members, three of the seven Presidents of the Quorum of Seventy, Presiding Bishop Partridge, and...two of the three members of the First Presidency. 
However, there is also some evidence that an article on marriage was already anticipated, and cited four times in the new D&C's index, which was prepared under Joseph's direction and probably available prior to his departure. Thus, "if a disagreement existed, it was resolved before the Prophet left for Pontiac." 
On July 7, 1878, Joseph F. Smith discussed Oliver's awareness of polygamy at the time of this publication:
To put this matter more correctly before you, I here declare that the principle of plural marriage was not first revealed on the 12th day of July, 1843. It was written for the first time on that date, but it had been revealed to the Prophet many years before that, perhaps as early as 1832. About this time, or subsequently, Joseph, the Prophet, intrusted this fact to Oliver Cowdery; he abused the confidence imposed in him, and brought reproach upon himself, and thereby upon the church by "running before he was sent," and "taking liberties without license," so to speak, hence the publication, by O. Cowdery, about this time, of an article on marriage, which was carefully worded, and afterwards found its way into the Doctrine and Covenants without authority. This article explains itself to those who understand the facts, and is an indisputable evidence of the early existence of the knowledge of the principle of patriarchal marriage by the Prophet Joseph, and also by Oliver Cowdery. 
However, there continues to be debate about whether Oliver Cowdery knew about--or prematurely practiced--plural marriage in the 1830s.  Oliver would learn about the Fanny Alger marriage, but his reaction at the time seems to have been wholly negative.
The original D&C 101 article outlined the general practice of performing a Latter-day Saint wedding, explained LDS beliefs about the marriage relationship, and denied that the Saints were practicing polygamy.
Question: Was the practice of polygamy general knowledge among Latter-day Saints in 1835 when the "Article on Marriage" was published?
Knowledge of the practice of polygamy among the Saints was limited prior to the 1840s
Some have argued that rumors of "polygamy" may already have been circulating as a result of the Prophet teaching the concept to some of his close associates. However, Brian Hales has argued that there are few if any extant attacks on Joseph or the Saints about polygamy prior to the 1840s:
...if the article was designed to neutralize reports about Joseph Smith and his alleged "crimes," polygamy would not have been included because that allegation was not made then nor at any other time during the Kirtland period according to any documentation currently available. In other words, assuming that the denial of polygamy in the "Marriage" article [of D&C 101] was specifically tied to rumors of Joseph Smith's behavior is problematic, unless other corroborating evidence can be located. 
On the other hand, charges of polygamy or "free love" or having wives in common were often made against new or little-known religious or social groups. As Hales reports:
Some [nineteenth-century utopian societies] experimented with novel marital and sexual practices, which focused suspicion on all the groups....Accordingly, early Latter-day Saint efforts to live the law of consecration, even though it sustained traditional monogamy, were instantly misunderstood....
John L. Brooke...wrote: "Among the non-Mormons in Ohio there were suspicions that the community of property dictated in the 'Law of Consecration' included wives."...
It seems plausible, even likely, that beginning in 1831, some uninformed individuals assumed that the law of consecration included a community of wives as one of its tenets, even publishing such claims, although there is no indication that this is how the Mormons themselves interpreted the law of consecration. Understandably, Church leaders would actively seek to deny such untrue allegations in a document on marriage to be included in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. 
Gilbert Scharffs notes:
The original Section 101 (never claimed as a revelation but approved as a statement of belief) did state that monogamy was the practice of the Church at that time. The section was not written by Joseph Smith and was voted upon by members in his absence. Perhaps the section was intended to prevent members from getting involved with plural marriage until such a time as the practice would be authorized by the Lord Church-wide. When that became the fact, the current Section 132 replaced the old Section 101. 
Response to claim: 248 - Polygamy continued to be practiced in Utah after the Manifesto
Gospel Topics: "The Second Manifesto. At first, the performance of new plural marriages after the Manifesto was largely unknown to people outside the Church"
"The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage," Gospel Topics on LDS.org:
At first, the performance of new plural marriages after the Manifesto was largely unknown to people outside the Church. When discovered, these marriages troubled many Americans, especially after President George Q. Cannon stated in an 1899 interview with the New York Herald that new plural marriages might be performed in Canada and Mexico.40 After the election of B. H. Roberts, a member of the First Council of the Seventy, to the U.S. Congress, it became known that Roberts had three wives, one of whom he married after the Manifesto. A petition of 7 million signatures demanded that Roberts not be seated. Congress complied, and Roberts was barred from his office.41
The exclusion of B. H. Roberts opened Mormon marital practices to renewed scrutiny. Church President Lorenzo Snow issued a statement clarifying that new plural marriages had ceased in the Church and that the Manifesto extended to all parts of the world, counsel he repeated in private. Even so, a small number of new plural marriages continued to be performed, probably without President Snow’s knowledge or approval. After Joseph F. Smith became Church President in 1901, a small number of new plural marriages were also performed during the early years of his administration.—(Click here to continue)
Question: Why were some plural marriages performed after the Manifesto?
A limited number of plural marriages were solemnized after Wilford Woodruff's Manifesto of 1890 (Official Declaration 1)
Some of these marriages were apparently sanctioned by some in positions of Church leadership.
- Does this demonstrate that the Manifesto was merely a political tactic, and that the "revelation" of the Manifesto was merely a cynical ploy?
- Do Post-Manifesto marriages demonstrate the LDS Church's contempt for the civil law of the land?
Some Church members unfamiliar with the history behind the aggressive Federal anti-polygamy movement have been troubled by critics who try to portray Church members’ and leaders’ choices as dishonest and improper. It is important to realize that this is a point on which modern enemies of the Church would be impossible to satisfy. If the Church had acquiesced to government pressure and stopped polygamy completely in 1890, the Church would then be charged with having “revelations on demand,” or with abandoning something they claimed was divine under government pressure. In fact, prior to the Manifesto, the attorney prosecuting Elder Lorenzo Snow for polygamy “predicted that if Snow and others were found guilty and sent to prison church leaders would find it convenient to have a revelation setting aside the commandment on polygamy.”
Church leaders were placed in a vicious double-bind: they were being ruthlessly persecuted by the legislature for following their faith
This placed Church leaders in a vicious double-bind: they were being ruthlessly persecuted by the legislature for following their faith; if they were to comply with the law, they would (in the eyes of some) be admitting that revelation came “on demand” and in response to secular pressure or “convenience.” Their enemies would “win” no matter what they did.
But, this did not happen—the leaders and members of the Church were literally willing to do anything they were commanded to do, in order to obey the Lord, until they were told otherwise. Impressively, the Church and its leaders took the only possible course which would preserve its revelatory integrity: only when they literally had no further choice besides dissolution was the plural marriage commandment completely rescinded.
It should be remembered, finally, that a key doctrine of the Church is that no one should have to take anyone else’s word for something—”that man should not council his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—but that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the savior of the world.”(D&C 1:19-20.) This doesn’t apply to polygamy alone; every discussion of testimony includes it. Joseph Smith made numerous other claims that might make us skeptical: appearances of God and Jesus, angels, gold plates, and everything else. Said he:
Search the scriptures—search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God; nor will there be any room for speculation.
As President Cannon explained, the leaders of the Church were not exempt from the rigors of receiving revelation:
Yet, though [Church doctrines] shocked the prejudices of mankind, and perhaps startled us as Latter-day Saints, when we sought God for a testimony concerning them, He never failed to give unto us His Holy Spirit, which witnessed unto our spirits that they were from God, and not of man. So it will be to the end. The Presidency of the Church have to walk just as you walk. They have to take steps just as you take steps. They have to depend upon the revelations of God as they come to them. They cannot see the end from the beginning, as the Lord does. They have their faith tested as you have your faith tested. So with the Twelve Apostles. All that we can do is to seek the mind and will of God, and when that comes to us, though it may come in contact [conflict?] with every feeling that we have previously entertained, we have no option but to take the step that God points out, and to trust to Him…
The full implications of the Manifesto, however, were still the subject of discussion and debate
The Doctrine and Covenants clearly indicates that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve are of equal authority and that every decision should be done in unanimity in order to make such decisions binding upon the Church: to make them “official,” as it were. Clearly, President Woodruff did not follow this practice—which would be very strange if he expected the Manifesto to be read as a formal revelation insisting that all polygamous practices immediately cease: only three of the apostles even saw the Manifesto prior to its publication. The leaders were agreed that President Woodruff had been right to issue it, and acknowledged his action of the Lord; the full implications of the Manifesto, however, were still the subject of discussion and debate.
President Woodruff did not frame the matter as a declaration from the First Presidency and the Twelve
President Woodruff did not frame the matter as a declaration from the First Presidency and the Twelve (which would be required for any official change in doctrine or practice). Rather, he spoke of the Manifesto as a “duty” on his part, which the Lord required. Even the wording of the Manifesto reflects this—it does not speak of “we the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve,” but simply of Wilford Woodruff in the first person singular. The wording is careful and precise: "I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise… And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.”(OD-1) Thus, President Woodruff announces a personal course of action, but does not commit other general authorities or the Church—he even issues “advice,” rather than a “command” or “instruction.” No other signatures or authorities are given, other than his own.
A useful comparison can be made with Official Declaration 2, which follows the prescribed pattern for Church government:
…the First Presidency announced that a revelation had been received by President Spencer W. Kimball…[who] has asked that I advise the conference that after he had received this revelation…he presented it to his counselors, who accepted it and approved it. It was then presented to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who unanimously approved it, and was subsequently presented to all other General Authorities, who likewise approved it unanimously.(OD-2)
The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve voted on 2 October 1890 to sustain President Woodruff’s action
Even at this meeting their intent was clear, since they debated whether the Church as a whole should sustain the Manifesto, since “some felt that the assent of the Presidency and Twelve to the matter was sufficient without committing the people by their votes to a policy which they might in the future wish to discard.”
It is evident that these united quorums did not consider the Manifesto to be a revelation forbidding all plural marriage in 1890: for, why would they then contemplate the Church wanting to “disregard” it? The leaders were doubtless still hoping that they might be able to gain some reprieve, and continue to practice their religion without civil or criminal penalty.
Perhaps most convincingly, an editorial in the Church’s Deseret News responded to the government’s Utah Commission, which had argued that President Woodruff needed to “have a revelation suspending polygamy.” The editorial advised that “[w]hen President Woodruff receives anything from a Divine source for the Church over which he presides he will be sure to deliver the message.” This was written five days after the publication of the Manifesto. It seems clear that President Woodruff considered his action inspired and divinely directed; however, he and the Church did not believe that God had, by the Manifesto, told them to cease all plural marriage.
George Q. Cannon said,
But the nation has interposed and said, "Stop," and we shall bow in submission, leaving the consequences with God. We shall do the best we can; but when it comes in contact with constituted authorities, and the highest tribunals in the land say "Stop," there is no other course for Latter-day Saints, in accordance with the revelations that God has given to us telling us to respect constituted authority, than to bow in submission thereto and leave the consequences with the Lord.
The Manifesto thus strove to walk this difficult line–conceding sufficient to “constitutional authority” to prevent the Church’s destruction, maintaining the restrictions on plural marriage, and refraining from teaching the doctrine. Yet, significantly President Cannon says that the Saints “shall do the best we can” (emphasis added). That is, they will continue to practice their faith to the extent possible without threatening the Church’s existence. This would later include a limited continuation of plural marriage.
The Church leaders’ united understanding was that the Manifesto was a revelation. However, they did not understand it as universally forbidding all plural marriage at that time, though for the Church’s survival it was necessary that the government so interpret it.
The leaders and Saints would understand the meaning and application of the Manifesto differently in time. An altered understanding—via revelation—of a revelation is not unprecedented: Jesus commanded the apostles to “teach all nations,” but the apostles continued to interpret this command in a more limited way until later revelation expanded the Christian gospel beyond those who had first embraced the rites of Judaism. A modern example involves the Word of Wisdom, which was not declared to be universally binding for more than a century, though the revelation in section 89 did not “change.”
It is estimated that fewer than two hundred plural marriages were sanctioned between 1890 and 1904
It is estimated that fewer than two hundred plural marriages were sanctioned between 1890 and 1904. These were often performed in areas outside the reach of U.S. law, such as on the seas or in Mexico.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke at BYU about the difficulties of this period:
Some have suggested that it is morally permissible to lie to promote a good cause. For example, some Mormons have taught or implied that lying is okay if you are lying for the Lord… As far as concerns our own church and culture, the most common allegations of lying for the Lord swirl around the initiation, practice, and discontinuance of polygamy. The whole experience with polygamy was a fertile field for deception. It is not difficult for historians to quote LDS leaders and members in statements justifying, denying, or deploring deception in furtherance of this religious practice.
Elder Oaks then reaches the key point—there will be times when moral imperatives clash:
My heart breaks when I read of circumstances in which wives and children were presented with the terrible choice of lying about the whereabouts or existence of a husband or father on the one hand or telling the truth and seeing him go to jail on the other. These were not academic dilemmas. A father in jail took food off the table and fuel from the hearth. Those hard choices involved collisions between such fundamental emotions and needs as a commitment to the truth versus the need for loving companionship and relief from cold and hunger.
My heart also goes out to the Church leaders who were squeezed between their devotion to the truth and their devotion to their wives and children and to one another. To tell the truth could mean to betray a confidence or a cause or to send a brother to prison. There is no academic exercise in that choice!
It is also clear that polygamy did not end suddenly with the 1890 Manifesto. Polygamous relationships sealed before that revelation was announced continued for a generation. The performance of polygamous marriages also continued for a time outside the United States, where the application of the Manifesto was uncertain for a season. It appears that polygamous marriages also continued for about a decade in some other areas among leaders and members who took license from the ambiguities and pressures created by this high-level collision between resented laws and reverenced doctrines.
I do not know what to think of all of this, except I am glad I was not faced with the pressures those good people faced. My heart goes out to them for their bravery and their sacrifices, of which I am a direct beneficiary. I will not judge them. That judgment belongs to the Lord, who knows all of the circumstances and the hearts of the actors, a level of comprehension and wisdom not approached by even the most knowledgeable historians.
Note: This article was adapted from a longer paper which examines these historical matters in much more detail. Interested readers are strongly encouraged to consult it for a much more thorough analysis of the basic concepts sketched in this wiki article. FairMormon link PDF link
Response to claim: 249 - "Those who practice polygamy today are probably much more consistent with the teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that condemns them"
- For a detailed response, see: Polygamy
- Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), 233. ( Index of claims )
- Andrew M. Manis, "'Dying From the Neck Up:' Southern Baptist Resistance to the Civil Rights Movement," Baptist History and Heritage (Winter 1999)
- Richard O. Emerson and Christian Smith, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).
- Thomas, "Black and Baptist in the Bay State," 75.
- Bruce R. McConkie, "All Are Alike unto God," an address to a Book of Mormon Symposium for Seminary and Institute teachers, Brigham Young University, 18 August 1978.
- Jeff Nye, "Memo from a Mormon: In which a troubled young man raises the question of his church's attitude toward Negroes," LOOK (October 22, 1963)
- Marty Bell, "Fire in My Bones: The Prophetic Preaching of Martin Luther King, Jr.," Baptist History and Heritage (Winter 1999), 13.
- Thomas F. Gossett, Race: The History of An Idea in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1963), 447.
- Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1989), 107.
- Forrest G. Wood. The Arrogance of Faith: Christianity and Race in America from the Colonial Era to the Twentieth Century (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990).
- Dana Martin, "The American Baptist Convention and the Civil Rights Movement: Rhetoric and Response," Baptist History and Heritage (Winter 1999), 44.
- Robert Root, Progress Against Prejudice: The Church Confronts the Race Problem (New York: Friendship Press, 1957), 59.
- J.C. Hough, Black Power and White Protestants: A Christian Response to the New Negro Pluralism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968), 177.
- Gregory E. Thomas, "Black and Baptist in the Bay State," American Baptist Quarterly (March, 2002).
- McKeever and Johnson, Mormonism 101, 243.
- H. Shelton Smith, In His Image, But… Racism in Southern Religion, 1780-1910 (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1972), 131.
- Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 73, 367 n.138. ( Index of claims ); Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 43. ( Index of claims );Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults (Revised) (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1997), 193, 235. ( Index of claims );Richard Packham, "Questions for Mitt Romney," 2008.;Simon Southerton, Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 2004) 40, 184. ( Index of claims )
- Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828), s.v. "white."
- 2 Nephi 5:21; quoted in Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), 234. ( Index of claims )
- Frederick K.C. Price, Race Religion and Racism: A Bold Encounter With Division in the Church (Los Angeles: Faith One Publishing, 1999), 149.
- Forrest G. Wood, The Arrogance of Faith: Christianity and Race in America from the Colonial Era to the Twentieth Century (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), 88.
- Stephen R. Haynes, Noah's Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002)
- Origen, "Genesis Homily XVI," in Homilies on Genesis and Exodus, translated by Ronald E. Heine (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1982), p. 215, referenced in Haynes.
- Haynes, p. 7-8.
- Haynes, p. 8.
- Haynes, Noah's Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery, p. 127-8 citing Palmer, "The Import of Hebrew History," Southern Presbyterian Review 9 (April 1856) 591
- Haynes, p. 129, citing Palmer, Our Historic Mission, An Address Delivered before the Eunomian and PhiMu Societies of La Grange Synodical College, July 7 1858 (New Orleans: True Witness Office, 1859), 4-5.
- Haynes, p. 132, citing Cherry, God's New Israel, 179-180 who in turn is citing one of Palmer's sermons.
- Haynes, p. 161.
- Bruce R. McConkie, “All Are Alike unto God,” address in the Second Annual CES Symposium, Salt Lake City, August 1978.
- The source is said to be a letter from Joseph Fielding Smith to J. W. A. Baily dated September 5, 1935.
- Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 184, footnote. ( Index of claims )
- Ezra Booth letter, Ohio Star (Ravenna, Ohio), 8 December 1831.
- Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 220. (Affidavits examined)
- David Whittaker, "Mormons and Native Americans: A Historical and Bibliographical Introduction," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 18 no. 4 (Winter 1985), 33–60. off-site
- Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 220. (Affidavits examined)
- Spencer W. Kimbal, Improvement Era (December 1960), 922-23.
- Brigham Young, "Re-Organization of the High Council, Etc.," (8 October 1859) Journal of Discourses 7:336., partially quoted in McKeever and Johnson, Mormonism 101, 235.
- Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 6:511 (journal entry dated 25 December 1869). ISBN 0941214133.
- First Presidency letter from Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, and Charles W. Penrose, to M. Knudson, 13 Jan. 1912.
- Wilford Woodruff's Journal, entry dated Dec. 25, 1869.
- First Presidency Statement (George Albert Smith), August 17, 1949. off-site
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954) , 1:65-66. (emphasis in original)
- Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (1966), p. 527.
- Bruce R. McConkie, "New Revelation on Priesthood," Priesthood (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981), 126-137.
- Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride, chapter 24, page 3; citing Richard Ostling, "Mormonism Enters a New Era," Time (7 August 1978): 55. Ostling told President Kimball's biographer and son that this was a paraphrase, but an accurate reporting of what he had been told (see footnote 13, citing interview on 10 May 2001).
- "Race and the Priesthood," Gospel Topics, lds.org. (2013) off-site
- M. Russell Ballard, "One More," Ensign, May 2005, p. 69.
- "Race and the Priesthood," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (2013)
- Bruce R. McConkie, "All Are Alike unto God," an address to a Book of Mormon Symposium for Seminary and Institute teachers, Brigham Young University, 18 August 1978.
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "The Need for Greater Kindness," Ensign (May 2006)
- Bruce R. McConkie, "All Are Alike unto God," an address to a Book of Mormon Symposium for Seminary and Institute teachers, Brigham Young University, 18 August 1978.
- Dallin H. Oaks cited in "Apostles Talk about Reasons for Lifting Ban," Daily Herald, Provo, Utah (5 June 1988): 21 (Associated Press); reproduced with commentary in Dallin H. Oaks, Life's Lessons Learned: Personal Reflections (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 2011), 68-69.
- Jeffrey R. Holland, Interview, 4 March 2006.
- Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 384. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
- Spencer W. Kimball, "Remember the Mission of the Church" (April 1982)
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions
- Boyd K. Packer, "It Is the Position That Counts" (June 1977)
- Bruce R. McConkie, "All Are Alike Unto God". (18 Aug 1978)
- Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957). Volume 5 link
- Brigham Young, "The Persecutions of the Saints, Etc.," (8 March 1863) Journal of Discourses 10:110., quoted in McKeever and Johnson, Mormonism 101, 241.
- Brigham Young, "The Persecutions of the Saints, Etc.," (8 March 1863) Journal of Discourses 10:111.
- Richard O. Emerson and Christian Smith, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 26
- Albert J. Raboteau, Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 167.
- Jana Riess, The Book of Mormon: Selections Annotated & Explained (Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2005), 82.
- The following critical works use this quote from Brigham to claim that Latter-day Saints must accept polygamy as a requirement to enter heaven. Contender Ministries, Questions All Mormons Should Ask Themselves. Answers; Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 233, 422 n. 48-49. ( Index of claims ); George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: "...but we called it celestial marriage" (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2008), xiv, 6, 55, , 356. ( Index of claims , (Detailed book review)); Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Moody Press, 1979), 29, 258.( Index of claims )
- Brigham Young, "Remarks by President Brigham Young, in the Bowery, in G.S.L. City," (19 August 1866) Journal of Discourses 11:268-269. (emphasis added) See Quote mining—Journal of Discourses 11:269 to see how this quote was mined.
- Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 6:527 (journal entry dated 12 February 1870). ISBN 0941214133.(emphasis added)
- Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 7:31 (journal entry dated 24 September 1871). ISBN 0941214133.(emphasis added)
- "Doctrine and Covenants 132," Seminary Teacher Resource Manual on LDS.org (2001, [updated 2005])
- Doctrine and Covenants, 1835 edition, Section 101.
- History of the Church, 2:246–247. Volume 2 link
- Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Volume 1: History (Salt Lake City, Utah: Greg Kofford Books, 2013), 154.
- Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 173, see pp. 171–1731 for full details.
- Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourses 20:29.
- Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 156–158.
- Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 161–162.
- Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 166, 168.
- Gilbert Scharffs, "Marriage Is Ordained of God", The Truth About "The God Makers" off-site
- "The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage," Gospel Topics on LDS.org
- B. Carmon Hardy, Solemn Covenant: The Mormon Polygamous Passage (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992), 50-51.
- Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 11–12. off-site
- George Q. Cannon, "Enduring to the End," in Brian H. Stuy (editor), Collected Discourses: Delivered by Wilford Woodruff, his two counselors, the twelve apostles, and others, 1868–1898, 5 vols., (Woodland Hills, Utah: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987–1989), 2:115–116. [Discourse given on 5 October 1890.]
- D&C 107:23-24
- DC 107:27
- See discussion in wiki article on Official Declaration 1
- Abraham H. Cannon, Diary, 2 October 1890; see also George Q. Cannon, Diary, 6 October 1890; Heber J. Grant, Journal, 2 October 1890, and copy in Conference Report 1:48.
- See discussion in B. Carmon Hardy, Solemn Covenant, 148; citing “A Utah Commissioner’s Perversions,” Deseret News, 1 October 1890.
- George Q. Cannon, "Enduring to the End," in Brian H. Stuy (editor), Collected Discourses: Delivered by Wilford Woodruff, his two counselors, the twelve apostles, and others, 1868–1898, 5 vols., (Woodland Hills, Utah: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987–1989), 2:119. [Discourse given on 5 October 1890.]
- See FairMormon Answers Wiki article on Word of Wisdom
- Telegram from President Joseph F. Smith to Reed Smoot, Apr. 1, 1911, Reed Smoot Correspondence.
- Dallin H. Oaks, “Gospel Teachings About Lying,” BYU Fireside Address, 12 September 1993, typescript, no page numbers.