Mormonism and racial issues

Mormonism and racial issues

This page is a summary or index. More detailed information on this topic is available on the sub-pages below.

The priesthood ban


Summary: An overview of the priesthood ban that was lifted in 1978.

The origin of the Mormon priesthood ban

Summary: The origin of the priesthood ban is one of the most difficult questions to answer. Its origins are not clear, and this affected both how members and leaders have seen the ban, and the steps necessary to rescind it. The Church has never provided an official reason for the ban.

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Understanding pre-1978 statements by members and leaders of the Church

Summary: Critics frequently parade justifications for the ban by past General Authorities that are considered quite racist by today's standards. While these have not been officially renounced, there is no obligation for current members to accept such sentiments as the "word of the Lord," and they most certainly do not reflect the Church's current position and teachings.

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Lifting the Priesthood ban

Summary: Is it true that the Church has never produced a copy of the revelation granting Blacks the ability to receive the priesthood?

Did social pressure play a role in lifting the ban?

Summary: Critics try to raise doubts about the authenticity of the 1978 revelation by claiming that it was dictated by social or governmental pressure.

Joseph Fielding Smith's racial reference in LOOK Magazine in 1963

Summary: Critics point to a 1963 statement by Joseph Fielding Smith LOOK Magazine in which he used the word "Darkies" as representative of the Church's racism. These critics, however, are applying a double standard to the Church in 1963. 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.

Policy or doctrine


Summary: A compilation of statements made by Church leaders both before and after the rescinding of the priesthood ban in 1978.

Banned from temple open houses

Summary: Were blacks banned from visiting temples prior to dedication, while other non-members were welcomed?

Ideas related to race that have been repudiated by the Church

There exist previously taught ideas which have been repudiated by Church leaders since the ban. Among these are the notion that Blacks were somehow not as "valiant" in the pre-existence, and that interracial marriage is forbidden.

Mormonism and the concept that some were "neutral" in the "war in heaven"

Summary: It is true that LDS scripture states that those with lighter skin color "are favored because of what they did as spirits in a pre-earth life?" Is it true that some Church leaders taught that people who were born with dark skin were "neutral" in the pre-existence?

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Mormonism and the "curse of Cain"

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LDS scriptures that were cited in support of the ban

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Brigham Young

Summary: Brigham Young made a number of statements related to race which are quite offensive by 21st Century standards. These articles examine some of these statements.

Mark E. Peterson claims that Blacks become servants in heaven

Summary: Elder Mark E. Peterson said, " If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get a celestial resurrection. He will get a place in the celestial glory."

Maher claims that blacks go to heaven as slaves

Summary: Bill Maher said, "...[I]n the [19]50s, the Mormons preached that the only way a black man could get into heaven was as a slave." It is unknown exactly what Maher was using as the source of such a comment, as it has never been a doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ that blacks would enter heaven only as slaves. It is possible, however, that Maher misread and was referring to an address given by Elder Mark E. Petersen at Brigham Young University on 27 August 1954.

Racial statements by Church leaders

Summary: Why did past prophets make racist statements? God had already revealed to Peter that he should not call anything "common" that God had cleansed (Acts 10:9-16), yet some modern-day prophets thought that blacks were inferior to whites; why is that?