Thirty-five years ago, Mormon leaders lifted the ban on black priests in the church. But they offered no explanation as to why there was a ban in the first place.  The ban most recently was brought up during Mitt Romney’s run for president and the church said it always welcomed people of all races into the church- they just didn’t know why the same didn’t apply to the priesthood.

Three decades later, the church has now offered a 2,000 word explanation via their official website.

The statement, which was posted last Friday, says the ban was rooted in racism. Perhaps most importantly, it addresses the once widely held notion that blacks were spiritually inferior:

“The Church was established in 1830, during an era of great racial division in the United States. At the time, many people of African descent lived in slavery, and racial distinctions and prejudice were not just common but customary among white Americans. Those realities, though unfamiliar and disturbing today, influenced all aspects of people’s lives, including their religion. Many Christian churches of that era, for instance, were segregated along racial lines. From the beginnings of the Church, people of every race and ethnicity could be baptized and received as members. Toward the end of his life, Church founder Joseph Smith openly opposed slavery. There has never been a Churchwide policy of segregated congregations.3

During the first two decades of the Church’s existence, a few black men were ordained to the priesthood. One of these men, Elijah Abel, also participated in temple ceremonies in Kirtland, Ohio, and was later baptized as proxy for deceased relatives in Nauvoo, Illinois. There is no evidence that any black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime.

In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood, though thereafter blacks continued to join the Church through baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Following the death of Brigham Young, subsequent Church presidents restricted blacks from receiving the temple endowment or being married in the temple. Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church.”

The post also goes on to say that the idea of black skin being a curse is something that is condemened and racism isn’t tolerated:

“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.

“Hallelujah,” says Catherine Stokes, a black Mormon who joined the LDS Church in Chicago and now lives in Utah. “I view this as a Christmas gift to each and every member of the church — black, white or whatever ethnicity.”


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  • They are still sexist. No woman can teach a man,and no woman can be elevated to the priesthood. Also unless she’s married,no heaven for her. The ultimate GOP hangout,women are supposed to have piles of babies,and accept 2nd class status.

  • Amani

    As a black Mormon, I’ve talked to members about this issue. the church has evolved and changed with the times even more than other churches and, in my opinion, for the better. I am glad to see this change and am happy for it. i love this church.

    I would also like to clarify that the Mormon church doesn’t have a lay ministry. There are men who hold the priesthood, giving them the authority to administrative the sacramental or baptisms, but no actual preacher or priest like in most churches. There’s no one person who speaks on Sunday, anyone from the congregation has an opportunity.

  • Starla

    I have honestly always felt that any Black person who is a Mormon is a dang fool, not only with this issue, but the longstanding belief by this church that Black people are cursed by God.

    Amani, I realize that your comment is right above mine, and this comment is not directed at you. It is simply a belief that I have always had. If you have found peace in the Mormon church, then peace be with you.

    • Ads

      I can appreciate where you’re coming from.
      HOWEVER: i was born and raised and still practicing catholic. Yet i believe in women’s total equality, that they should be priests, i believe in contraception and gay rights. I come from a churc that spearheaded the genocide of native americans across 2 continents, yet somehow, through liberation theology i feel i still have a home in my religion. So to the black mormons – i guess i feel you.

  • Mariposa

    What does the Mormon church have to offer black people to get them to join? Is there really anything groundbreaking that can’t be offered by other sects of christianity or otherrreligions? I think they are losing members and are facing a serious p.r. crisis right now. They are targeting communities of color.

    • Me

      i think it’s cuz mormons are mostly republican. it’s the same pr battle. neither one of them appeal to minorities cuz of how prejudice they seem about things that are part of everybody’s life. you can’t walk around w/your nose in the air, judging folks, damning folks, and then turn around & want those same people to join your cause & put you on a some kinda pedastal. it don’t work like that.