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Black and Mormon

Black and Mormon

Newell G. Bringhurst
Darron T. Smith
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 184
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    Black and Mormon
    Book Description:

    The year 2003 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the lifting of the ban excluding black members from the priesthood of the Mormon church. The articles collected in Newell G. Bringhurst and Darron T. Smith's Black and Mormon look at the mechanisms used to keep blacks from full participation, the motives behind the ban, and the kind of changes that have--and have not--taken place within the church since the revelation responsible for its end. _x000B__x000B_This challenging collection is required reading for anyone concerned with the history of racism, discrimination, and the Latter-day Saints.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09060-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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    (pp. 1-12)

    Friday, June 9, 1978, “the long promised day” when Latter-day Saints Church officials announced that “all worthy male members of the church [could] be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color,” was like no other day in the history of the church. The historic policy change came through “revelation,” according to the church’s First Presidency announcement, after Spencer W. Kimball, the LDS president, spent “many hours in the upper room of the Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance.”¹ This momentous day eliminating Mormonism’s long-standing ban on black priesthood ordination was dubbed, with some irony, “Black Friday”...

  2. 1 The “Missouri Thesis” Revisited: Early Mormonism, Slavery, and the Status of Black People
    (pp. 13-33)

    The “Missouri thesis” was at one time seen as the key to understanding the origins of the ban on black priesthood ordination in the LDS Church. The thesis developed within the context of the so-called new Mormon history, which emerged during the second half of the twentieth century. This new scholarship was produced by writers both within and outside the Latter-day Saint faith who sought to reexamine carefully the Mormon past in a scholarly and nonpolemical manner, utilizing the latest historical techniques. It differed from traditional Mormon history in that its practitioners sought objectivity by avoiding “pro-” or “anti-” positions...

  3. 2 The Traditions of Their Fathers: Myth versus Reality in LDS Scriptural Writings
    (pp. 34-49)

    I recently read a comment by a well-meaning Latter-day Saint whom I shall not identify. She was trying to defend the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints against criticisms of racism. I cringed when I read what she thought was an official, doctrinal explanation for the fact that blacks of African descent were not ordained to the priesthood between 1847 and 1978: “There is scriptural support for withholding the priesthood from the Negro. They were a race set apart, descendants of Cain. And the black skin was the curse put upon Cain’s descendants, this is according to Latter-day scripture.”...

  4. 3 Two Perspectives: The Religious Hopes of “Worthy” African American Latter-day Saints before the 1978 Revelation
    (pp. 50-59)

    On June 8, 1978, the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement that reversed the long-standing practice of denying the priesthood to men of African lineage. The statement said in part: “all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color.”¹ In the years since the priesthood was opened to “worthy” black males, women and men of African descent who are “worthy” members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been permitted to participate in temple work and receive ordinances available...

  5. 4 Spanning the Priesthood Revelation (1978): Two Multigenerational Case Studies
    (pp. 60-81)

    My scholarly and professional interest in African Americans and their experience in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is situated in my personal experience.¹ I am typical of many Utah-born Latter-day Saints who first welcomed black members to their congregations before and especially after President Spencer W. Kimball’s revelation of June 1978, which allowed black men to be ordained to the Mormon priesthood and permitted black men and women to participate in temple blessings.

    Although this essay, a qualitative analysis of two case studies, is not about my own changing perceptions, I disclose my own attitudes in two...

  6. 5 Casting Off the “Curse of Cain”: The Extent and Limits of Progress since 1978
    (pp. 82-115)
    Armand L. Mauss

    The anguished history of the black membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is by now a well-told story, which does not need recounting here.¹ The story is rooted in three episodes in particular, each crucial in its own way, and each itself a culmination of a unique process: (1) Brigham Young’s 1852 declaration of church policy denying blacks access to the lay priesthood; (2) a partial reconsideration, confirmation, and institutionalization of that policy in the 1880s; and (3) the 1978 revelation, which overturned the policy and extended the priesthood to “all worthy male members... without regard...

  7. 6 African American Latter-day Saints: A Sociological Perspective
    (pp. 116-131)

    Although religious institutions are considered to be a conservative force in societies, and although religious leaders often emphasize the stability of their own organizations, religion in the United States has always been in a state of flux. One kind of change in religious organizations is their development and growth. The development of the LDS Church has been discussed widely, and I leave that topic to other authors. A second kind of change occurs in the membership of a religious organization. In 1978 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints changed its previous restriction and allowed African and African American...

  8. 7 “How Do Things Look on the Ground?” The LDS African American Community in Atlanta, Georgia
    (pp. 132-147)

    Atlanta, Georgia, isnotMormon Utah. It has a healthy Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints community and one that is more racially, culturally, and politically diverse. African American Mormons are an essential part of the mix. They are growing in numbers, in commitment, and in the church leadership roles they fill.

    Among the essential ingredients in the growth of this part of the Mormon universe are veteran black members who serve as Relief Society presidents, bishops, and stake high counselors, and in stake presidencies. They raise their children to serve missions, they work regularly in the Atlanta Temple,...

  9. 8 Unpacking Whiteness in Zion: Some Personal Reflections and General Observations
    (pp. 148-166)

    As an African American member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I was disturbed one otherwise enjoyable Sunday afternoon when I learned about an unpleasant incident that had occurred in my congregation earlier that day. This incident involved Joy Smith, who was teaching the lesson that day in the women’s Relief Society meeting.¹ The lesson, from the manual provided by the church, was on “following the prophets,” a popular topic that stresses the members’ need to be obedient to higher authority. In an attempt to engage the class, she asked a hypothetical question: should all the teachings...