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Mormons, African-Americans reconcile to seek family roots

By Ben Smith

Photo of Sarah Jackson.

Sarah Jackson (in red) attended the Family History Conference at the Atlanta History Center on Saturday.

Sarah Jackson does not remember her first visit to Salt Lake City fondly.

She recalled how in 1977 the charter bus carrying her basketball team pulled beside the Mormon Temple and her coach told her black people weren’t allowed inside. At dinner at a popular restaurant, Jackson remembered getting sent through the kitchen and into a rear dining room.

 

The feeling of being stared and standing out in a crowd, while not unfamiliar, was more intense and disturbing than she had ever experienced.

“I vowed after leaving college I would never go back to Utah,” she said, and apart from one more basketball game, she kept her word.

On May 18, Jackson, drove 22 miles from her Duluth home to seek help from the people who represent the faith that once shunned her. At the Atlanta History Center, she sought out Mormon genealogical experts to discover more about her own lineage.

Family conference flier.

The conference featured seminars on using indexing and the “genealogical proof standard” in doing ancestral research.

Jackson was among hundreds of African-Americans who attended Atlanta’s Family History Conference, which emphasized African-American research. The event represented an ongoing reconciliation between African-Americans and the Church of Latter Day Saints through a common ground valued by both: family research.

Throughout much of the church’s history, Mormons considered African-Americans inferior to whites. In the mid-19th century Mormon leader Brigham Young said black people were marked by the “Curse of Cain.” It wasn’t until 1978—the year after Jackson’s visit—that the church reversed bans on African-Americans taking part in temple ceremonies and black men entering the Mormon priesthood.

But the fallout from that historical antipathy remains. In 2012 presidential election, Republican Mitt Romney, a white Mormon, failed to capitalize on black voter discontent with a fledgling economy. He garnered a mere single-digit share of the African-American vote against Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president.

Genealogy creates a confluence for the two historically disparate groups. Mormons have a hieratic obsession with ancestral research born out of the church’s teachings and religious ceremonies, intended to bind families together for eternity. This drive has led the church to establish one of the world’s largest systems for collecting genealogical records.

Saturday’s Family History Conference was sponsored by 13 businesses and organizations, including the Atlanta Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; Family Search, the church’s own non-profit genealogical research service; and Ancestry.com, a Provo, Utah-based for-profit company founded and run by Mormons.

African-Americans who seek their lineages face distinct challenges. These sleuths, because of slavery, often must find ancestors without surnames belonging to families ripped apart by auctions. Records are often scattered with few easy-to-find links. The interest in this work swelled after the publication of “Roots,” by Alex Haley in 1976 and continues through current media such as “Finding Your Roots,” the PBS series starring historian Henry Louis Gates.

African American visitors attend the Family History Conference at the Atlanta History Center

African American visitors attend the Family History Conference at the Atlanta History Center to learn techniques for searching for ancestral records.

On Saturday, FamilySearch announced a new tool that will help African-American family historians, especially African-Americans: the digitization of genealogical records, including Oakland Cemetery and its African-American section, as well as the 1896 census.

“I am tremendously appreciative of what they [Mormon genealogists] have done,” said Rhonda Barrow, who has researched her African-American ancestors and Caribbean roots. “Without them I would not know what I know about my family.”

Barrow, who is not Mormon, said the day she walked into a Family History Center in 1996, she found records of two ancestors. Since then she has found multiple documents related to her people in Barbados, St. Martins and Guyana dating back to 1820.

“What they (the Mormons) have done for genealogy is extraordinary,” said Barrow, volunteer public relations chairperson for the metro Atlanta chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogy Society. “I can’t afford to pay for these searches of information and they make it so you don’t have to.

A FamilySearch seminar Saturday focused on how to use the “genealogical proof standard,” the minimum steps to conduct credible ancestral research, on African-American families.

The speaker, FamilySearch manager James Ison, presented a case study on the identity of John Percival Parker’s father. Parker was an abolitionist, inventor and former slave who helped rescue more than 1,000 other slaves through the underground resistance movement.

James Ison of FamilySearch leads a seminar on using the "genealogical proof standard" to research the parentage of African American slaves.

James Ison of FamilySearch leads a seminar on using the “genealogical proof standard” to research the parentage of African American slaves.

Parker’s mother was a slave. His father was white.

The search for the father initially zeroed in on a slave owner, also named Parker, who, according to his will, fathered a son through a slave. Census records suggested the boy had been born the same year as John Percival Parker. However, Ison presented a counter theory that the two were not connected, and Parker had merely chosen to name himself after an abolitionist politician.

Afterwards, Ison said it was not unusual for Mormons to aid African-Americans’ genealogical research.

“We help every ethnicity in the world,” he said. “Everyone shares a love of family … Families are eternal.”

He acknowledged the difficulties in researching African-American lineages.

“Before Emancipation, enslaved people had only one name in records. It was John or Bill,” Ison said. “Before 1865, we might have been brothers who got sold to different owners. After 1865, I might have taken the name Ison and you Smith and we might have lived 100 miles away from each other and never known where the other was.”

But that’s no reason to give up, Ison said.

“You need to persevere and find people in genealogical societies who can help you and find people doing similar research in some of the same places where you are doing research,” said Ison. “Learn from others who have been successful.”

His words hit home with Jackson.

“That’s the reality for us. That’s the way it is, nine times out of ten you don’t find anything but you get close,” she said. “But you learn to celebrate the small things until you get that big break.”

A decade ago, Jackson said she made a completely unexpected discovery through Ancestry.com—about her current family. Race and ethnicity aside, this news was a bombshell, and she doubts she would have found it elsewhere.

“I found out I had a brother and sister,” she said. “My dad and mom and never told me he had been married before He carried their photograph along with ours. He did support them.”

“I don’t know why he never told me.”

For more information on FamilySearch, a free service for all family genealogists, contact https://familysearch.org/

Ben Smith can be reached at [email protected]

 

Michelle Hiskey is a freelance writer and writing coach based in Decatur, and her day job is senior editor on Emory University's development communications team. Michelle worked at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 22 years as a sports reporter, columnist and Sunday feature writer, and her stories of recovery and redemption bridge unexpected places and people across Atlanta. She lives in Decatur with her husband Ben Smith, also a journalist, and their two awesome daughters. She can be reached at [email protected]

45 replies
  1. Bradster says:

    The LDS have historically been LESS likely than other Americans, on average, to support racist ideas and policies.Unlike many American Protestant denominations, the LDS church never instituted a uniform policy that Black members would be forced to worship in segregated congregations.Both the Methodists and the Baptists argued in the 1840s that slavery was biblical. The Southern Baptist convention that President Jimmy Carter belonged to was formed in 1848 over the slavery issue.  It is unfortunate that reporting such a positive event is begun in such a negative light, especially when it is untrue.Report

    Reply
    • JustineHarrison says:

      Bradster “Unlike many American Protestant denominations, the LDS church never instituted a uniform policy that Black members would be forced to worship in segregated congregations…”
      Only if you ignore the fact that not permitting Blacks to participate in temple ordinances is VERY MUCH segregationist in worship.  And the LDS church very much did that.
      And to compare policies of the LDS church to those of other faiths is absurd.  Unlike those churches, the LDS proclaims boldly that it–and ONLY it–is led by the one and only prophet who speaks for deity on this planet.  The LDS church claims to have a direct (and exclusive) line to divine guidance.   It doesn’t matter what other churches do or say; in your book they aren’t led by a prophet.  But for your church’s prophets to not permit Blacks in the temple is to have said either God was a racist, or your prophets weren’t speaking for him.  One of those has to be true.Report

      Reply
      • Bradster says:

        JustineHarrison Bradster You have gravitated to a completely different subject, and that is the infallibility of prophets.  Read your Bible to answer that question.  The LDS history is there for all to see, and in my view it is unfortunate in this subject.  But then there is much history in the Bible that is unfortunate as well–even prophetic history.Report

        Reply
        • Bradster says:

          JustineHarrison Bradster Fair enough, but if you are honest you must ultimately insist on the same standards with the Bible.  Either the prophets of old, and even Christ was racist, or they were not prophets at all.Report

          Reply
        • JustineHarrison says:

          Bradster JustineHarrison 
          I am fine with that.  But the ancient prophets aren’t here on earth today claiming to b something they aren’t.  Thomas Monson and fourteen others are doing that.Report

          Reply
        • DwightRogers says:

          Another example is the account of Ananias and Sapphira who withhold
          money from the Church and suffer severe penalties for doing so.See Acts Chapter 5.Report

          Reply
      • DwightRogers says:

        JustineHarrisonBradster
        I can understand why non-Mormons may
        have a negative view of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over
        the issue of Blacks and the priesthood.If I were looking in from the outside, or if I had not studied the
        history of this issue more thoroughly, I may have also shared in that attitude.
        However, it is helpful to look at all the pertinent facts of history in context
        rather than the distorted view given in the media.
        Joseph Smith, once gave his valuable horse
        to a black man, so the man could buy his son out of slavery. The Church sent
        tons of food and clothing to the earthquake victims in Haiti, a predominantly
        black country. They have missionaries all over the world teaching people of all
        races and colors. This doesn’t sound
        racist to me.
        In
        1844, Joseph Smith ran for president with a plan to free all slaves by 1850. He
        was murdered 4 months into his campaign.
        The early
        Mormons were mostly abolitionists who opposed slavery while those around them
        in Missouri were sympathetic to slavery and wanted Missouri to be a slave
        state. In
        Missouri, where the predominant attitude was pro-slavery, the LDS church
        underwent severe persecution.One of the
        underlying reasons was that Mormon support of freedom for black slaves was
        unpopular in the State of Missouri.
        Scripture of
        the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints states: “ it is not right that any man should
        be in bondage one to another.” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:79, December 16,
        1833)
        Note
        what the Book of Mormon teaches:
        2 Nephi
        26:33
        33 For none of these iniquities come of
        the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he
        doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/26.33?lang=eng them http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/26.33?lang=eng to http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/26.33?lang=eng unto him
        and partake of his goodness; and he http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/26.33?lang=eng none that
        come unto him, black and white, http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/26.33?lang=eng and free,
        male and female; and he remembereth the http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/26.33?lang=eng; and all
        are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.
        In
        1972, Harold B. Lee cautioned:
        We are having come into the Church now
        many people of various nationalities. We in the Church must remember that we
        have a history of persecution, discrimination against our civil rights, and our
        constitutional privileges being withheld from us. These who are members of the
        Church, regardless of their color, their national origin, are members of the
        church and kingdom of God. Some of them have told us that they are being
        shunned. There are snide remarks. We are withdrawing ourselves from them in
        some cases.
        Now we must extend the hand of
        fellowship to men everywhere, and to all who are truly converted and who wish
        to join the Church and partake of the many rewarding opportunities to be found
        therein. We ask the Church members to strive to emulate the example of our Lord
        and Master Jesus Christ, who gave us the new commandment that we should love
        one another. I wish we could remember that. (Harold B. Lee, Teachings of
        Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 384)
        Gordon B.
        Hinckley, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
        (Mormons) gave this teaching in priesthood session of General Conference:
        “Racial
        strife still lifts its ugly head. I am advised that even right here among us
        there is some of this. I cannot understand how it can be. It seemed to me that
        we all rejoiced in the 1978 revelation given President Kimball. I was there in
        the temple at the time that that happened. There was no doubt in my mind or in
        the minds of my associates that what was revealed was the mind and the will of
        the Lord.
        Now
        I am told that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are sometimes heard among
        us. I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of
        another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he
        consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ.
        How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is
        eligible for the priesthood whereas another who lives a righteous life but
        whose skin is of a different color is ineligible?
        Hinckley
        continues:
        Throughout
        my service as a member of the First Presidency, I have recognized and spoken a
        number of times on the diversity we see in our society. It is all about us, and
        we must make an effort to accommodate that diversity.
        “Let
        us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven,
        who loves all of His children.
        Brethren,
        there is no basis for racial hatred among the priesthood of this Church. If any
        within the sound of my voice is inclined to indulge in this, then let him go
        before the Lord and ask for forgiveness and be no more involved in such.” (Gordon
        B. Hinckley, “The Need for Greater Kindness,” Ensign (May
        2006), 58–61)
        Mormons
        sincerely believe that there was a reason God put the ban on priesthood for
        Blacks.  Mormons did not do it out of hatred or prejudice against Blacks
        but because of a sincere belief that it came from God.A similar but more restrictive ban on
        priesthood was put in place by God in the Old Testament under Moses, showing
        that God can and did restrict priesthood from groups of people.  God can
        do those sort of things even though we don’t understand the reason why.
        Most Mormons
        have never liked the ban but believe that it came by revelation from God. Others make a case that it developed as a
        tradition in the Church which was unfortunate and was not corrected until
        1978.Either way, most Mormons, myself
        included, were very glad when the ban was lifted.Report

        Reply
  2. HarryStamper says:

    The author says….” Mormons considered African-Americans inferior to whites.” I completely disagree.  I’m 56, grew up in the Church, went to BYU and served a mission….I have never heard that uttered in the church or by any member.  I was born in Inglewood CA a black neighborhood of LA.  Yes, the church restricted the priesthood from blacks but not from baptism and membership in the church.  The teaching was always the ban was temporary and the day would come…which it did.  Never was it taught that the restriction was due to inferiority….in fact a basic teaching is God is no respecter of people but judges all men on their good works and intent of heart.  As to why the restriction, there never was an official reason, anybody who gave a reason was speculating or offering a personal opinion.Report

    Reply
    • JustineHarrison says:

      HarryStamper  “Never was it taught that the restriction was due to inferiority….”
      Harry, please do some research on the teachings of your prophets.
      “Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a sin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the Holy Priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the Holy Priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to. The volition of the creature is free; this is a law of their existence, and the Lord cannot violate his own law; were he to do that, he would cease to be God. He has placed life and death before his children, and it is for them to choose. If they choose life, they receive the blessings of life; if they chose death, they must abide the penalty. This is a law which has always existed from all eternity, and will continue to exist throughout all the eternities to come.”
      – Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 11, p. 272; online at http://journals.mormonfundamentalism.org/Vol_11/refJDvol11-41.html
      “And after the flood we are told that the curse that had been pronounced upon Cain was continued through Ham’s wife, as he had married a wife of that seed. And why did it pass through the flood? Because it was necessary that the devil should have a representation upon the earth as well as God; and that man should be a free agent to act for himself, and that all men might have the opportunity of receiving or rejecting the truth, and be governed by it or not according to their wishes and abide the result; and that those who would be able to associate with the Gods in the eternal worlds. It is the same eternal programme. God knew it and Adam knew it.”
      – Prophet John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, v. 22, p. 304; online at http://journals.mormonfundamentalism.org/Vol_22/JD22-297.html
      “Not only was Cain called to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father of an inferior race. A curse was placed upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures…. they have been made to feel their inferiority and have been separated from the rest of mankind from the beginning.”
      – Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, p. 101, 1935; online at http://www.rickross.com/reference/mormon/mormon132.html and http://www.helpingmormons.org/Lectures.htm
      “There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body. The Negro, evidently, is receiving the reward he merits.”
      – Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, pp. 65-66; online at http://www.mormonismi.net/artikkelit/rasistisia_lausuntoja.shtml%20and%20http://www.fairlds.org/apol/misc/misc19.html
      “There is a reason why one man is born black and with other disadvantages, while another is born white with great advantages. The reason is that we once had an estate before we come here, and were obedient, more or less, to the laws that were given us there. Those who were faithful in all things there received greater blessings here, and those who were not faithful received less.”
      – Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, p. 61; online at http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/response/qa/blacks_disadvantage.htm%20and%20http://www.bcmmin.org/aframer.htmlReport

      Reply
      • HarryStamper says:

        JustineHarrisonHarryStamperJustine, you quote me incorrectly……I said…”.I have never heard that uttered in the church or by any member.”  You quoted me as “never was that taught….”…and again, 50 years of activity in the Church, Temple worker and many church lessons over the years, I have never heard anything about blacks that resembled racists or inappropriate and most certainly ….they’re inferior….the contrary was always taught…..blacks were restricted from holding the priesthood temporarily……that’s it…..we believe this was done under the direction of the Lord.  It’s important to point out, Brigham Young and the entire leadership of the church always accepted blacks into church meetings, social events and the community fully.  The leadership of the Church was always against slavery and condemned it.  The better argument is …Was Joseph Smith a prophet? and was Brigham Young his legal successor? If so….the issue of blacks is settled.  Biblically, a similar case is when Moses led the 12 tribes of Israel out in the wilderness from Egypt.   At that time the priesthood was restricted to Aaron and the tribe of Levi…sometimes known as the Levitical priesthood….it remained that way until Jesus fulfilled the law.Report

        Reply
        • JustineHarrison says:

          HarryStamper JustineHarrison 
          Harry,
          I quoted you exactly as you posted:   “Never was it taught that the restriction was due to inferiority….”   Please re-read your post.
          The fact is, the concept of Black inferiority WAS taught by your church, as the quotes above amply illustrate.  
          And it’s shameful for a church that claims to have been led by THE prophet on earth since the mid-19th century to suggest Blacks were inferior.Report

          Reply
        • HarryStamper says:

          @JustineHarrison HarryStamper  
          Your shooting the messenger.  No one in the church hides from the fact that blacks were not given the priesthood…..and we don’t hide from the fact the reason was due to their race….black / negro.  We believe it came from God.  You also iReport

          Reply
        • JustineHarrison says:

          HarryStamper

          HarryStamper 
          I am “shooting” no one, Harry.  This comment of yours says it all:  “We believe it [denying Blacks full participation in your church] came from God.”

          There ya go, a doctrine of racism.

          And you are free to quote as many positive comments by your leaders as you care to (though I doubt there are “thousands”).  You can even replace the statue of Brigham Young in Temple Square with one of Rosa Parks.  But it won’t change the fact that your doctrrine until 1978 was enormously racist.  And the LDS church has never ever apologized for that doctrine.  Instead, it hides behind the exact same statement you just made:  God made us do it.

          Your church claims Brigham Young was THE prophet on earth representing God’s ONE TRUE church.  Yet the man was undeniably racist.  How does that work?  Did God want him to be a racist?  Was Brother Brigham just tone deaf on that one issue? (Though we can point to several others nearly as vile.)
          And as for your comment that the Mormons have never described Negroes as an “inferior race,” kindly respond to this (emphasis mine):
          “Not only was Cain called to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father of an INFERIOR RACE. A curse was placed upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures…. they have been made to feel their inferiority and have been separated from the rest of mankind from the beginning.”
          – Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, p. 101, 1935; online athttp://www.rickross.com/reference/mormon/mormon132.html%20and%20http://www.helpingmormons.org/Lectures.htm

          How about this:  Brigham Young was not a prophet.  Neither was Joseph Smith.  And neither have any of the LDS church’s leaders been.  How about they were a bunch of white men who used their supposed prophecy to manipulate and control people.  How about in the 21st century they built it into a corporate church that spends billions on a shopping mall and keeps the salaries they pay their leaders secret from even its own membership.Report

          Reply
      • DanielDinnell says:

        JustineHarrison HarryStamper – – –  … the
        “mark of Cain” or “curse of Ham” came from interpretations of Bible stories and
        was a commonly accepted concept of the early 16th to the 19th
        century Christian religions of Europeans and Americans regarding people of
        black skin – According to historical scholars, early interpretations of the
        Bible in Syriac Christianity combined the “curse” with the
        “mark”, and interpreted the curse of Cain as black skin.  Some argue that this may have originated from
        rabbinic texts, which interpreted a passage in the Book of Genesis (“And
        Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell”) as implying that Cain
        underwent a permanent change in skin color. 
        The explanation that black Africans, as the “sons of Ham”,
        were cursed, possibly “blackened” by their sins, was advanced only
        sporadically during the Middle Ages, but became increasingly common during the
        slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries. 
        The curse of Cain was used to support a ban on ordaining blacks to most
        Protestant clergies until the 1960s in both the U.S. and Europe. Look at your
        Baptist churches –
        The split between the Northern and Southern Baptist organizations arose over
        slavery and the education of slaves.  At
        the time of the split, the Southern Baptist group used the curse of Cain as a
        justification for slavery.  Some 19th and
        20th century Baptist ministers in the southern United States taught that there
        were two separate heavens; one for blacks, and one for whites.  Many
        Protestant groups in America had supported the notion that black slavery,
        oppression, and African colonization was the result of God’s curse on people
        with black skin or people of African descent through Cain or through the curse
        of Ham, and some churches practiced racial segregation as late as the 1990s.  The Civil Rights
        movement occurred in the 1960s, culminating in the Civil Rights Act of
        1964.  Historians know that the “Act” didn’t change centuries-old bigotry,
        prejudice, and segregation (voluntary and involuntary) overnight. In fact, it was not until 1995 that the
        Southern Baptist Convention officially renounced its “racist roots” and denounced racism and apologized for its past defense of slavery.   And though early in LDS Church history there
        had been “opinions” spoken by a few LDS church members about the “mark of Cain”
        or “curse of Ham” being the main reasons for skin color being black, it is not
        and never has been taught as LDS church doctrine.Report

        Reply
  3. RaymondSwenson says:

    I am a 63 year old Mormon, born in Japan, with a Japanese mother. When I was growing up in the 1950s in Salt Lake City there were black members in our congregation who taught Sunday School and were faithful members. There were also Mormons who were Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, Mexican, and American Indian. There are 14 million Mormons now in over 150 countries speaking over 90 languages. There are about 400,000 Mormons in Africannations like Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Mozambique, about 200,000 black Mormons in the US, and 100,000 Mormons in the Dominican Republic.
    Utah never had racially segregated public schools,Report

    Reply
  4. RobertHarris2 says:

    I find it somewhat incredible that Mormons deny their church history.  One only has to read the writings and teachings of Brigham Young to conclude that African-Americans were not ‘equal’ to whites. The church should be commended for its turnaround about the place of blacks in the human spectrum.Report

    Reply
    • DanielDinnell says:

      RobertHarris2 – – – Brigham Young was not the only member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. . .  There is a lot of folklore and
      misinformation about black members of http://www.lds.org/. 
       The Church of Jesus Christ of
      Latter-day Saints has never
      taught that blacks are ‘inferior’ in any way, shape, or form to people of other races.    When it was a very unpopular concept, Joseph
      Smith (1st President/prophet of the Church) said in 1842,  “I have advised slaveholders to bring
      their slaves into a free country and set them free–educate them–and give them
      equal rights.” (December 16, 1833), Joseph Smith, Jr.
      dictated a passage in the Doctrine and Covenants stating that “it is not
      right that any man should be in bondage to another.”
      Converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
      gathered in Missouri.  They were
      unwelcome, not so much because of their religion, but because they were not
      sympathetic to slavery.  The locals
      perceived, and with good reason, that the “Mormon” influx could decide whether
      or not Missouri would enter the Union as a slave state.  Intent on driving the newcomers out, mobs
      gathered, houses and barns were set afire and crops were destroyed.  When the Mormons defended themselves they were
      accused of being the aggressors and the governor issued a declaration that “the
      Mormons were to be driven from the state or exterminated.
      The first black person was baptized two years after the Church’s
      founding in 1830, and Mormons started to ordain black men into the priesthood the first one in
      1836, even to the office of Seventy.Report

      Reply
      • JustineHarrison says:

        DanielDinnell
        Daniel,
        You posted this:  “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never taught that blacks are ‘inferior’ in any way, shape, or form to people of other races.”  
        That’s a lie.  The LDS church HAS said Blacks are inferior, using that exact word.
        Here is what the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (whom you regard as God’s one true prophet on earth) said in 1935 (emphasis mine):
        “Not only was Cain called to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father of an INFERIOR race. A curse was placed upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures…. they have been made to feel their INFERIORITY and have been separated from the rest of mankind from the beginning.”
        – Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, p. 101, 1935; 
        So please, tell us how that does not say Blacks are INFERIOR.Report

        Reply
        • DwightRogers says:

          JustineHarrisonDanielDinnell
          Show me in an official
          publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints where it is
          taught that Blacks are inferior.Show me
          not from a private publication but in the LDS scriptures or other official
          publication or teaching published by the Church.
          The Church of Jesus Christ
          of Latter-day Saints has never taught that prophets always speak for the Lord every
          time they speak.Rather, the LDS church
          recognizes that there are times when the prophet is speaking for the Lord and
          other times that he is speaking his own viewpoint or opinion.For example, Joseph Smith said “…a prophet is a prophet only when he
          is acting as such.” (Joseph Smith Jr., DHC
          5:265; Teachings p 368)
          Those
          teachings that are official Church doctrine are reviewed and approved by Church
          leadership and are published as such in official Church manuals and/or
          periodicals. Any leader in the Church
          has the right to publish his own views and interpretations just as does any U.S
          Citizen.I don’t believe The Way to
          Perfection is a Church publication.Critics
          of the Church often engage in selectivism, cherry picking more obscure
          statements from private publications while ignoring the repeated official
          teachings of the Church.This is not
          good scholarship or even very honest.
          Church
          leaders have repeatedly said that when they are speaking for the Lord they will
          publish this in official pronouncements.At other times, Church leaders are free to express their private views
          the same as any other individual.Report

          Reply
        • HarryStamper says:

          JustineHarrisonDanielDinnell  You wrote in your response…”That’s a lie.  The LDS church HAS said Blacks are inferior, using that exact word.”  The Church never has in any official document, scripture or publication.  You quote Joseph Fielding Smith, President of the LDS Church as your source.  Your incorrect.  The article was written in 1931, he was a young Apostle at that time, not President.  He wrote the article in a magazine (later put in that book) for the Utah Genealogical Society.  He claimed he was solely responsible for those words and that they do not represent the Church position.  He better than anyone KNEW he could not speak for the Church at large.  As I quoted in an earlier post he clearly taught much later in his life that the Church does not teach blacks are inferior and went out of his way to explain.
          Your attempts to explain Mormon doctrine are infantile.  You appear foolish and your hostility clouds any sound reasoning.  You sound like a Ford dealer on the weekend attempting to diminish the Chevrolet dealer across the street.Report

          Reply
        • JustineHarrison says:

          HarryStamper JustineHarrison DanielDinnell 
          Harry,   
          Last I checked, you Mormons sustain your “apostles” as “prophets, seers and revelators.”  Do I have that wrong?  As an apostle (no matter how “young”), was he not sustained as a prophet?

          And I could not care less what he said “later in life.”  The man was a prophet at the time.  He pretended to be speaking for God.  So either he was not a prophet, or the Mormon god thought Blacks were inferior.Report

          Reply
        • JustineHarrison says:

          DwightRogers JustineHarrison DanielDinnell

          LOL, Dwight.  I see.  So your prophets’ words aren’t binding if they aren’t in the scriptures.  

          But read this statement by Brigham Young.  So is it scripture when he speaks, or not?  Was this statement a lie?
          “I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of man, that they may not call Scripture.” (Journal of Discourses, 13:95)
          And of course this was the very same Brigham Young who taught this:
          You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild andseemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind. . . . Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which was the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another cursed is pronounced upon the same race–that they should be the “servants of servants;” and they will be until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree (Journal of Discourses,  7:290)Report

          Reply
        • DwightRogers says:

          JustineHarrisonHarryStamperDanielDinnell 
          You
          say “He pretended to be speaking for God”
          No.
          This is what I explained to you already
          but you didn’t listen. He published his
          own book with his own viewpoints. It was
          not published by the Church. Prophets
          and Apostles have the same right everyone else has which is that they can
          publish their own views and their own interpretations.When God wants something given to the people
          he gives it by revelation and it is published to the Church in official
          outlets, not in private publications. Sorry, there is no problem here. No matter how much you try to take one statement
          and rewrite history as if that statement was published by the  Church, it
          doesn’t make it soReport

          Reply
        • DwightRogers says:

          You
          say “He pretended to be speaking for God”
          No.
          This is what I explained to you already
          but you didn’t listen. He published his
          own book with his own viewpoints. It was
          not published by the Church. Prophets
          and Apostles have the same right everyone else has which is that they can
          publish their own views and their own interpretations.When God wants something given to the people
          he gives it by revelation and it is published to the Church in official
          outlets, not in private publications. Sorry, there is no problem here. No matter how much you try to take one statement
          and rewrite history as if that statement was published by the  Church, it
          doesn’t make it soReport

          Reply
        • DwightRogers says:

          JustineHarrison DwightRogers DanielDinnell 
          I will say it to you again.  Brigham Young can say whatever he wants.  It is recorded by hand by stenographers and published in the Journal of Discourses.  The written account published in the JD is not vetted and approved by the Church.  There is no guarantee that it was recorded correctly.  It is not given out to the Church as binding. Brother Brigham can claim that his speech is scripture but until it is canonized or published to the Church in official material it is not binding upon the Saints.Report

          Reply
        • JustineHarrison says:

          DwightRogers JustineHarrison HarryStamper DanielDinnell 
          Dwight said (confidently):  “There is no problem here.”  
          Well, there are problems.  Huge ones.  And they transcend the Mormon and Blacks issue.  But feel free to live in denial, Dwight.
          For anyone truly interested in objective information instead of apologetics, please visit:

          http://www.mormonthink.com

          http://www.20truths.info

          Is it any wonder that according to Elder Jensen of the LDS church, members are “leaving in droves,” and at a rate greater than any time since the mass 19th century exodus in Kirtland, Ohio?Report

          Reply
        • JustineHarrison says:

          DwightRogers JustineHarrison DanielDinnell 
          “Brigham Young can say whatever he wants…”
          You’re missing the point entirely, Dwight.
          1.  The man was (and still is revered as) the ONE MAN ON EARTH WHO IN HIS TIME WAS AUTHORIZED TO SPEAK FOR GOD according to your church.
          2.  The man was a hideous biggot.  And he said things during his tenure that were hideously cruel toward Blacks.

          No prophet does that.  No way.Report

          Reply
        • DwightRogers says:

          JustineHarrisonDwightRogersDanielDinnell
          No, you are missing the point entirely.  I already quoted Joseph Smith for you wherein he said”…a prophet is a
          prophet only when he is acting as such.” (Joseph Smith Jr., DHC 5:265; Teachings p 368)
           I think I already made this clear but I wonder if you read it.  J. Reuben Clark of the First Presidency answeres the question quite clearly as shown here:

          “And, behold, and lo,
          this is an ensample unto all those who were ordained unto this priesthood,
          whose mission is appointed unto them to go forth-
          “And this is the
          ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy
          Ghost.
          “And whatsoever they
          shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the
          will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord,
          shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.”
          (D&C 68:2-5)
          In an article written by
          Elder J Reuben Clark entitled “When are Church Leader’s Words Entitled to
          Claim of Scripture?”, the following counsel is given:
          “The question is, how
          shall we know when the things they have spoken were said as they were ‘moved
          upon by the Holy Ghost?’
          “I have given some
          thought to this question, and the answer thereto, so far as I can determine,
          is: We can tell when the speakers are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’ only when
          we ourselves are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost.’
          “In a way, this
          completely shifts the responsibility from them to us to determine when they so
          speak.” (Church News 31,July 1954)
          Elder Clark further counsels:
          “…even the President of the Church, himself, may not always be ‘moved
          upon by the Holy Ghost’ when he addresses the people.This has happened about matters of doctrine
          (usually of a highly speculative character) where subsequent Presidents of the
          Church and the peoples themselves have felt that in declaring the doctrine, the
          announcer was not ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost.’
          “How shall the Church
          know when these adventurous expeditions of the brethren into these highly
          speculative principles and doctrines meet the requirements of the statutes that
          the announcers thereof have been ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’?The Church will know by the testimony of the
          Holy Ghost in the body of members, whether the brethren in voicing their views
          are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’; and in due time that knowledge will be made
          manifest.” (Church News 31 July, 1954)
          By the power of the spirit,
          the body of faithful Church members will be able to discern true doctrine from
          error.A teaching given by some of the
          brethren of the Church says that where there is disagreement among the
          brethren, go with the majority.It has
          been my experience that the vast majority of active Church members as well as
          the majority of the leading brethren believe that evolution is false.
          The crowning principle is
          that all truth must be understood by the power of the Spirit.Even plain passages in the canonized
          scripture can be misunderstood and even twisted by those who have not the
          spirit.Conversely, statements spoken or
          written by faithful members of the Church and, particularly the Brethren, can
          be scripture to us even when it is not officially published by the Church.Report

          Reply
        • HarryStamper says:

          JustineHarrison DwightRogers DanielDinnell  
          If Brigham Young were alive today, would you crucify him?  This is the same logic the citizens of Israel used against Christ.  They put their fingers in their ears and claimed what an evil law breaking man He was.  Who spends their time railing against another religion on blogs?  Miserable people full of guilt and anger desiring to make others miserable.  Read 3 talks by BY or Joseph Smith and see if there is any good in them…look for it….it’s very plentiful.Report

          Reply
        • JustineHarrison says:

          HarryStamper JustineHarrison DwightRogers DanielDinnell
          Harry,
          Who said anything about crucifying anyone? 
          And seriously, you want to compare Brigham Young to Jesus Christ?  (Of course Joseph Smith DID compare himself to Jesus:  “I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam… Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.” )
          Brigham Young was an abusive cruel man.  He was in arguably a horrible racist. Many believe he was responsbile for the Mountain Meadows massacre.  At least one of his wives sued for divorce based on cruel and inhumane treatment.  And yet the LDS church continues to revere him.
          And please look up the term “railing.”  I have done here what people do here:  Posted my thinking.  If my comments bother you, I suggest you not read them. And no, I am not full of guilt or anger.  But you are of close free to think that if you want.Report

          Reply
        • DwightRogers says:

          JustineHarrisonHarryStamperDwightRogersDanielDinnell
          You say “Brigham Young was an abusive cruel man.  He
          was in arguably a horrible racist.”
          Hardly!
          Brigham Young is known for his fiery
          and blunt speeches which he used to motivate people towards change but he is also
          known for his kindness and sympathy to the downtrodden.
          People who criticize Brigham Young
          would do well to be informed of the context of the times and to read his speeches
          in that light. In 1863, couplings
          between black women and white men would virtually always be a relationship with
          few rights for the black woman and all the power with the man.Black women in relationships with white men
          were often forced into sexual activity. Her children would have been automatic slaves
          if she was a slave, and the men under no legal responsibility to provide for
          her or the children.
          Brigham was far more worried about
          white men abusing their position of political and cultural superiority. This is not to say that Brigham did not share
          some ideas about the desirability of keeping races separate; virtually everyone
          of his era did. American ethnologists of
          the time taught that whites and blacks were separately created races, the
          mixture of which would corrupt both. (Brigham Young, “The
          Persecutions of the Saints, etc.,” (8 March 1863) http://en.fairmormon.org/Journal_of_Discourses/10/25#111.)]
          But in the same speech Brigham Young
          condemns the whites for their treatment of blacks, and threatens punishment for
          white men who have what is likely forced intercourse with black women.Therefore, it is not fair to portray him as a
          ravening racist with no concern for the downtrodden. His fire and brimstone is all for the
          aggressor; his sympathy is for those who were mistreated.Report

          Reply
        • DwightRogers says:

          You say “Many believe he was responsbile for the Mountain
          Meadows massacre.”
          There is substantial evidence neither Brigham Young nor any
          other church leader ever ordered the Mountain Meadow Massacre.Available evidence from first hand sources
          indicates that Brigham Young tried to prevent the tragedy from occurring.Authors who are critical of the church take
          diary entries and other evidence out of context to make it look like high
          Church leaders, particularly Brigham Young, ordered and/or condoned this
          atrocious act.But the evidence does not
          support that conclusion.Most of their
          arguments are a re-hash of anti-Mormon propaganda from the time period.For instance, Will Bagley’s “Blood of the
          Prophets” interprets an alleged
          conversation between Brigham Young and some Indians as proof of a planned
          attack.However, as pointed out by attorney Robert
          Crockett, the conversation was actually about an effort to enlist the help of
          the Indians to slow down the approach of Johnson’s Army and had nothing to do
          with the immigrant party in Southern Utah.(Robert D. Crockett, “A Trial Lawyer Reviews Will Bagley’s Blood
          of the Prophets,” FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): 199–254)
          In 1857 an adulterous
          federal judge told lies to Congress after being kicked off the bench in Salt
          Lake City, and the US government sent one-third of the entire Union army to
          Utah to put down a supposed non-existent “rebellion” by the Mormons.In the midst of this
          charged atmosphere a company of travelers in southern Utah several days journey
          away from Salt Lake and Church headquarters were joined by some ruffians who
          were bragging about how they had raped and murdered Mormons in Missouri.The California-bound wagon train was attacked
          by a group of Indians and Mormons and most of them were killed.
          Judge Cradlebaugh went to Washington with accounts of the
          many “depravities” existing among the Saints.However, the judge was so discredited in time that even the non-Mormons
          called for his removal.Cradlebaugh
          blamed the massacre at Mountain Meadows as ordered from Church
          headquarters.Some believed it and some
          believe it now according to two recent so called “histories.” But even the
          non-Mormon prosecutor, Sumner Howard, at John D. Lee’s second trial dismissed
          involvement of church leaders.
          James Holton Haslam acted as a messenger/courier between
          Brigham Young and the area in Southern Utah.Haslam carried messages to Southern Utah intended to smooth over
          relations and prevent violence with instructions that “the people at
          Parowan and neighboring communities to do everything in their power to protect
          the emigrants.”After reading a
          message warning of impending trouble Brigham Young asked Brother Haslam “if he
          could take the trip back, if so, to take a little rest, and start back during
          noontime.”President Young “said that
          ‘the Indians must be kept from the emigrants at all costs if it took all of
          Iron County to protect them.’ He felt the matter strongly. His eyes filled with
          tears, said Brother Haslam.” (Improvement Era (August 1951))
          Eye witness accounts describe Brigham Young’s sorrow when he
          learned that his message had arrived too late to avoid violence.
          After the massacre, local leaders
          attempted to portray the killings as solely the act of Indians. This effort
          began almost immediately, with John D. Lee’s report to Brigham Young. It wasn’t
          long, however, before charges started to surface that Indians were not the only
          participants, but that there were whites involved. Responding to the charges
          that whites were involved, Brigham Young urged Governor Cumming to investigate
          the matter fully. However, the governor maintained that if whites were
          involved, they would be pardoned under the general amnesty granted by the
          governor to the Mormons in June 1858. This amnesty was issued at the behest of
          U.S. President James Buchanan, and covered all hostile acts against the United
          States by any persons in the course of the Utah War.
          Scholars generally recognize that
          there was a cover up at the local level.The dispute, often raised by critics of the LDS Church, is that the
          massacre was authorized or, at least condoned, by leaders of the Church in Salt
          Lake.However, the best evidence is that
          Brigham Young in Salt Lake counseled to let the travelers pass by without
          molestation and that he did not know of the details of the massacre until after
          the fact and was much grieved over it.
          In the words of Mormon leader B.H.
          Roberts:
          “The conception was diabolical; the execution of it
          horrible; and the responsibility for both must rest upon those men who
          conceived and executed it; for whatever of initiative may or may not have been
          taken by the Indians in the first assault upon these emigrants, responsibility
          for this deliberately planned massacre rests not with them.”(Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive
          History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965),
          4:156.)
          In April 1894 Wilford Woodruff
          stated the following concerning the massacre and Brigham Young’s supposed
          involvement:
          “One instance I will name here: A man. . . .He was a
          participator in that horrible scene–the Mountain Meadow massacre.Men have tried to lay that to President
          Young.I was with President Young when
          the massacre was first reported to him. President Young was perfectly horrified
          at the recital of it, and wept over it.He asked: “Was there any white man had anything to do with
          that?”The reply was No; and by the
          representations then made to him he was misinformed concerning the whole
          transaction.I will say here, and call
          heaven and earth to witness, that President Young, during his whole life, never
          was the author of the shedding of the blood of any of the human family; and
          when the books are opened in the day of judgment these things will be proven to
          heaven and earth.Perhaps I had not
          ought to enter into these things, but it came to me.” (Wilford Woodruff, “The Law of
          Adoption,” in Brian H. Stuy (editor), Collected Discourses:
          Delivered by Wilford Woodruff, his two counselors, the twelve apostles, and
          others, 1868–1898, 5 vols., (Woodland Hills, Utah: B.H.S. Publishing,
          1987–1989), 4:72–73. [Discourse given on 8 April 1894.] )
          Most historians agree with Juanita
          Brooks, who concluded that neither Brigham Young nor other Church leaders
          ordered the massacre “and would have prevented it if he could.”Brigham Young did not know about the massacre
          before-hand, and was horrified to learn of it.(Juanita Brooks, The Mountain Meadows Massacre (1950;
          reprint, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991), 219)
          Juanita Brooks, who served on the Utah Board ofState History for 28 years, was a longtime professor at the former Dixie StateCollege and became a well-known author. She is recognized, by scholarly consent, to be one of Utah and the Mormon Church’s most eminent historians. Her totalhonesty, unwavering courage and perceptive interpretation of fact, set more stringent standards of scholarship for her fellow historians to emulate.Report

          Reply
        • DwightRogers says:

          You say “At least one of his wives sued for divorce based
          on cruel and inhumane treatment.”
          Only one?I guess
          his other wives liked him enough to stay with him.It is well know that one of Brigham Young’s
          wives left the Church and became a critic. Her version of Mormonism is clearly
          tainted by her biases.She clearly had a
          vendetta against the Church. One would
          do better to read and study more reasonable sources of information to get an
          accurate picture of Mormon history.Report

          Reply
        • DwightRogers says:

          JustineHarrisonHarryStamperDwightRogersDanielDinnell 
          Joseph Smith Said:
          “…I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together
          since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither
          Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a
          work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints
          never ran away from me yet . . . ”
          (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 408-409)
          Jesus taught to his Apostles that
          they would do greater works than he did:Jesus said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me,
          the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do;
          because I go unto my Father.” (John 14:12)
          So, Joseph Smith was right.  His accomplishments fulfill the prophecy of Jesus.Report

          Reply
        • DwightRogers says:

          JustineHarrison DwightRogers DanielDinnell 
          I don’t  know whether Steve Bloor is a former Mormon bishop or not.  Maybe he is.  However, it is not unusual for people to claim “former’ status as a Mormon or even a Mormon leader when they never were.  They do this in an effort to gain credibility.  They claim to be “insiders” and to know what really goes on in the Mormon church.  Usually they are not insiders and they don’t know or understand Mormon history very well. 
          Additionally, so what if he was a Mormon Bishop. Judas was an Apostle of Jesus Christ but he still betrayed Christ.  That doesn’t make Christianity false.Report

          Reply
        • DwightRogers says:

          Also, I read the article and the posts at the Steve Bloor site.  I responded there to the incorrect information.  Steve gets things wrong.  Go there and see my posts (assuming they approve them.  Thy are in pending status awaiting approval.)Report

          Reply
  5. RaymondSwenson says:

    Robert I am not “denying” Mormon history, I am telling you what that history IS.Just so you understand, Mormon history did NOT include segregated “whites only” churches as was the case until recently for some Evangelical denominations. Utah was on the side of the Union during the Civil War. Utah did not have Jim Crow laws nor was the the KKK an active part of its politics ad it wad in the South. There was no lynching in Utah of minority people as happened in the South. There was no school segregation.The old Mormon discrimination only affected blacks who had chosen to be baptozed.in the Mormon Church. It had no effect on a black Baptist or Catholic. And there was no institutional discrimination against the other minorities who were routinely discriminated against in many other states. Mormons recruited Asians, Polynesians, Americsn Indians and Hispanics.Report

    Reply
  6. Mr_Commander says:

    Greetings Ben Smith,
    Your
    recent report “Mormons, African-Americans Reconcile to Seek Roots” is
    in tune with my recently published book which was in-part facilitated by
    the research tools of Family Search. Below is a brief synopsis of the
    book and a cover image. Thanks for reporting about the Atlanta History
    Center.
    BOOK SYNOPSIS:
    Utilizing
    genealogy research techniques, the author (Mr. James H. Commander)
    reveals some history of an African-American family who went from a small
    mining town of “Black Belt” Alabama to work with W.E.B. Dubois, A.
    Philip Randolph, and others to become the presidents and leaders of the
    N.A.A.C.P, labor groups, churches, and the largest black migration
    settlement house in the Great Depression. Available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Love-Our-Roots-Freedom-Change/dp/0989564916/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1372190535&sr=1-1&keywords=Love+At+our+RootsReport

    Reply

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