Racism in LDS Church was unsupported by official revelation


I am writing about Jay Richards’ column (“Early LDS Church showed racial tolerance,” Feb. 21). This was an informative column and brought deserved attention to an exemplary individual.

Sadly, however, it omitted the fact that despite faithfulness to the end, Elijah Abel was denied the right to obtain his temple endowments. While his priesthood was never declared null and void, he and his family were denied the blessings of the temple because of the color of their skin.

From the circumstances surrounding Abel’s ordination and other teachings and actions of the prophet, it appears that Joseph Smith would not have supported the long-term denial of the priesthood to black members that developed after his death.

It is a sad and reprehensible element of LDS history that Brigham Young, his contemporaries and subsequent church leaders ignored Joseph Smith’s example and instead embraced popular Protestant beliefs of the time?(such as the “mark of Cain and Ham”) and even tried to justify the exclusionary policy by concocting the false doctrine that blacks were less faithful in the “pre-earth life.”

Justification for this policy, which was unsupported by official revelation, continued until President Spencer W. Kimball actively questioned the validity of the policy.

Members of the LDS church should be grateful to men like Kimball who were sensitive enough to seek guidance and right a grievous wrong and should use this sad period of LDS history to remember the need for continued sensitivity and the rejection of popular religious ideas unsupported by their own doctrine.

Mark Middlemas Alumnus