an archive of unsettling histories, mythistories, and mystories
from U.S. & Mormon settler colonialism, white supremacy, and imperialism
from U.S. & Mormon settler colonialism, white supremacy, and imperialism
Nearly 100 yrs later, J. Reuben Clark wrote, “The Church discourages social intercourse with the negro race, because such intercourse leads to marriage” which he calls spiritually and biologically “wrong”.
In the 1940s the First Presidency marked that “No special effort has ever been made to proselyte among the Negro race” as “social intercourse between the Whites and the Negroes [leads] to intermarriage, which the Lord has forbidden.” This doctrinal segregation continues currently in the "Aaronic Priesthood Manual" on this church's website which quotes Spencer W. Kimball counciled in 1976: “We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally.”
In 1949, the First Presidency justified their anti-Blackness in their first Official Statement on “the Negro” writing: “The attitude of the Church with reference to the Negroes [is a] direct commandment from the Lord…” brought on by “the conduct of (their) spirits in the premortal existence.”
Leaders even encouraged Euro-settler Mormons to organize “to prevent Negroes from becoming neighbors,” and offered church buildings for these meetings.
In 1954, apostle Mark E. Petersen, spoke in favor of segregation saying, “What God hath separated, let not man bring together again” and cited the Lamanites and Nephites, the curse of Cain, and the Israelites and Canaanites as scriptural evidence of the divinity of segregation.
In ‘58 Bruce R. McConkie wrote in Mormon Doctrine that "the whole negro race have been cursed with a black skin, the mark of Cain, so they can be identified as a caste apart, a people with whom the other descendants of Adam should not intermarry.” The quote remained until 2010 when the book went out of print. Though the book is still available used. I bought my copy at the Mormon-owned thrift store, Deseret Industries.
A 1959 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found that this church taught that melanated people were not as righteous in the pre-earth life and that most Utah Mormons believed "by righteous living, the dark-skinned races may again become 'white and delightsome'.”
In 1965 apostle Spencer W. Kimball told a group of Indigenous BYU students: "Now, the brethren feel that it is not the wisest thing to cross racial lines in dating and marrying.”
That same year BYU administrators began sending rejection letters to Black applicants which cited this church’s pro-segregation beliefs on interracial marriage as the reason for rejection.
With social and political pressure from the civil rights movement (which Ezra Taft Benson called a communist plot) the First Presidency released their second Official Mormon Statement on “the Negro” in 1969 in which they repeated that “the seeming discrimination by the Church toward the Negro is not something which originated with man; but goes back into the beginning with God… extending back to man’s pre-existent state."
One of the early dents in the anti-African/Black salvation ban’s armor came from beyond the U.S. borders. In Brazil, intermarriage between people of African, European, and Indigenous decent created a deeply mixed population which made Mormon blood purity doctrine difficult to enforce. And even though this church actively avoided proselytizing in Black communities, many Brazilian Mormons didn’t understand U.S. classifications of race and how it applied to the priesthood ban, which made their missionary work difficult.
Mark Grover, an “expert on Mormonism in Brazil” writes, “Many (Brazilian) members struggled with this policy which openly discriminated against family members, friends, and occasionally themselves… (and) resulted in limited growth and development for the Church.”
Because of the difficulty of determining this “one drop rule” in Fijians, Indigenous Australians, Egyptians, Brazilians, and South Africans the ban was relaxed in those places so that people with a "questionable lineage" were given the priesthood.
Another dent in their anti-Blackness armor came after the publication of "Mormonism's Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview.” by Lester Bush in 1973. BYU vice-president Robert K. Thomas feared that the church could lose its tax exemption status as the article described the church's racially discriminatory practices in detail. This article created internal discussion among church leaders which weakened the idea that the Black salvation ban was doctrinal.
Then miraculously in 1978, the church, through Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, received revelation commanding them to lift the Black salvation ban.
Even so, deep anti-Blackness is still perpetuated in this church.
LDS historian Wayne J. Embry interviewed several Black Mormons nine yrs after the church lifted this ban (1987) and found that every one of them reported experiencing "a reluctance or a refusal (from white Mormons) to shake hands with them or sit by them, (as well as) racist comments made to them."
When asked whether the Black salvation ban and its lifting were policy or doctrine, Dallin H. Oaks stated in 1988, "I don't know that it's possible to distinguish between policy and doctrine in a church that believes in continuing revelation and sustains its leader as a prophet.”
Twenty years after that in 2007, Mormon journalist, Peggy Fletcher Stack, reported that Black Mormons still felt unwelcome because of how other members treat them, including being called the "n-word" in the temple and at church.
In June 2016, when some Black Utah Mormon women were asked what they’d want today, one woman said she wished she could “attend church once without someone touching my hair.”
That same year a survey showed that over 60% self-identified Mormons, know or believe that the priesthood/temple ban was God's will.
In June 2020, a spokesman for the NAACP said that there was "no willingness on the part of the church to do anything material ... It's time now for more than sweet talk." In response the church gave more talks. There are still no serious attempts “to do anything material.”
This doctrinal segregation continues currently in the "Aaronic Priesthood Manual" on this church's website which quotes Spencer W. Kimball counciled in 1976: “We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally.”
I am nicholas b jacobsen, an artist, researcher, historian, educator, and organizer. I am a trans-non binary Euro-settler raised in the Nuwu lands of so-called Utah. My family has been Mormon and Utahn for as long as either of those concepts have existed. My ancestors sacrificed everything--their identities, homelands, jobs, health, & safety to become Mormon, Utahn, U.S. American, & white--to settler their Zion. They also sacrificed their humanities as they committed genocide against Kuttuhsippeh (Goshute), Timpanogos Shoshone, Shoshone-Bannock, Eastern Shoshone, Ute, Nuwu (Southern Paiute), and Diné (Navajo). Because my ancestors made my home through Indigenous genocide in their home/lands––I take it as my personal responsibility to unsettle what my ancestors settled, while helping my fellow settlers do the same through reading, writing, art, and community building.