Richard and Joan Ostling point to the church's practice, continued until 1978, of refusing the priesthood to blacks as evidence that past LDS Church policies were racist in nature. Before the change in policy, most other adult males in the LDS Church were given the priesthood; Church policy precluded blacks from officiating in ordinances and from participating in LDS temple ceremonies. Jerald and Sandra Tanner cite quotes from church leaders such as Brigham Young who said, "You must not think, from what I say, that I am opposed to slavery. No! The negro is damned, and is to serve his master till God chooses to remove the curse of Ham...". The Tanners also illustrate church racism by quoting sections of the Book of Mormon which describe dark skin as a sign of a curse and a mark from God to distinguish a more righteous group of people from a less righteous group, and by citing passages describing white skin as "delightsome" while dark skin is portrayed as un-enticing (2 Nephi 30:6). However, these references in the Book of Mormon focused on those presumed to be the ancestors of Native Americans, not people of African descent. Joseph F. Smith, president of the church, published his views that people with dark skin were less faithful in the pre-existence, and as such, did not warrant the blessings of the priesthood. The Tanners also cite other church leaders, historical and modern who have spoken in favor of segregation and restrictions on admition to the priesthood for men of African descent.
Although the current LDS Church policy now admits blacks to the priesthood, the church has not issued a written repudiation of racist doctrines, although Bruce R. McConkie told members "Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said ... We spoke with a limited understanding." Some black members have made formal requests to the church to issue a statement, while other black members have argued against that effort. One critical black church member contends that the church "refuses to acknowledge and undo its racist past, and until it does that, members continue to suffer psychological damage from it" and that "the church has not done enough to rectify its racist past". However, the large majority of black Mormons say they are willing to look beyond the racist teachings and cleave to the church. Gordon B. Hinckley has sermonized against racism. He has taught that no one who utters denigrating remarks can consider himself a true disciple of Christ, and noted the irony of racial claims to the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Richard Abanes contends that the church tries to hide past racial practices, citing the 1981 change in the Book of Mormon from saying the Lamanites would become "a white and a delightsome people" to "a pure and a delightsome people." (2 Nephi 30:6). However, this change in wording was originally published in 1840 by Joseph Smith, and was not reincorporated until 140 years later.
Gregory Prince and William Robert Wright state that these leaders were a product of their time and locale and that many leaders, including Joseph Smith, Jr., David O. McKay, and even initially Brigham Young, were not opposed to blacks receiving the priesthood. They further state that the policy was a practice supported by scriptural arguments, not a doctrine, and despite several church leaders throughout the 1950s and 1960s supporting its reversal, the policy was kept in place through 1978 because the Quorum of the Twelve felt that a revelation was needed to change it.
Read more about this topic: Criticism Of Mormonism
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