Black and Cursed

Extract from The Mormon Delusion, Vol. 2, Ch. 13 pp. 250-260.

There was definitely an obsession with white supremacy within the Mormon Church for many years, a fact that was regularly reflected in talks given by senior leaders. If the Chinese and Japanese (see Petersen, below) are all now equal with white Americans in the sight of the Mormon God, how is it that their grandparents were definitely not?

Regarding the ‘Negro and the Priesthood’ as the Church termed it, Brigham Young stated they would never be given the priesthood until after all the seed of Abel had received it. He also said that they have absolutely no place in the government of the country or of the Church (“they are not capable of ruling themselves”) and should remain in slavery. Mormons took over a hundred black slaves across the plains with them and Brigham Young ensured slavery was legalised in Utah. Yet they are today rising through the quorums of the Church; and who knows who the next American President may yet be?

Note: Subsequent to writing the above, of course we now know the answer to that question.

This colored race have been subjected to severe curses, which they have in their families and their classes and in their various capacities brought upon themselves… I am a firm believer in slavery… there should be a law made to have the slaves serve their master, because they are not capable of ruling themselves… I am firm in the belief that they ought to dwell in servitude…

When a master has a negro, and uses him well, he is much better off than when he is free. As for masters knocking them down and whipping them and breaking the limbs of their servants, I have as little opinion of that as any person can have, but good wholesome servitude, I know there is nothing better than that. (Brigham Young speaking in a joint session of the legislature, Friday, 23 Jan 1852, recorded by Geo. D. Watt. Brigham Young Papers, Church Historical Dept). (Emphasis added).

Young, who was the first Territorial Governor, got his wish and on 4 February 1852, slavery was legalised in Utah. It was the only territory west of the Missouri River and north of the Missouri Compromise line of 36° 30′ to legalise slavery. (The Pacific Historical Review, V.50, No. 3:329. Aug 1981).

The very next day, Brigham Young gave a sermon which included the following:

…and Cain I will not kill you, nor suffer any one to kill you, but I will put a mark upon you. What is that mark? You will see it on the countenance of every African … the Lord told Cain that he should not receive the blessings of the priesthood nor his seed, until the last of the posterity of Abel had received the priesthood, until the redemption of the earth. If there never was a prophet, or apostle of Jesus Christ spoke it before, I tell you, this people that are commonly called negroes are the children of old Cain. I know they are, I know that they cannot bear rule in the preisthood, for the curse on them was to remain upon them, until the resedue of the posterity of Michal and his wife receive the blessings, the seed of Cain would have received had they not been cursed  in the kingdom of God on the earth, a man who has the Affrican blood in him cannot hold one jot nor tittle of preisthood; Why? because they are the true eternal principals the Lord Almighty has ordained, and who can help it, men cannot. the angels cannot, and all the powers of earth and hell cannot take it off, but thus saith the Eternal I am, what I am, I take it off at my pleasure, and not one partical of power can that posterity of Cain have, until the time comes the [sic] says he will have it taken away. That time will come when they will have the privilege of all we have the privelege of and more. In the kingdom of God on the earth the Affricans [sic] cannot hold one partical of power in Government. …they should receive the spirit of God by Baptisam; and that is the end of their privilege; and there is not power on earth to give them any more power… But let me tell you further. Let my seed mingle with the seed of Cain, that brings the curse upon me, and upon my generations, — we will reap the same rewards with Cain.

…not one of the children of old Cain, have one partical of right to bear Rule in Government affairs from first to last, they have no buisness there. this privilege was taken from them by there own transgressions, and I cannot help it; and should you or I bear rule we ought to do it with dignity and honour before God.

…Let this Church which is called the kingdom of God on the earth; [say] we will sommons the first presidency, the twelve, the high counsel, the Bishoprick, and all the elders of Isreal, suppose we summons them to appear here, and here declare that it is right to mingle our seed with the black race of Cain, that they shall come in with us and be pertakers [sic] with us of all the blessings God has given us. On that very day, and hour we should do so, the preisthood [sic] is taken from this Church and kingdom and God leaves us to our fate. The moment we consent to mingle with the seed of Cain the Church must go to destruction,–we should receive the curse which was placed upon the seed of Cain… (Brigham Young’s Speech on Slavery, Blacks, and the priesthood.  Brigham Young Addresses, Ms d 1234, Box 48, folder 3, 5 Feb 1852, Church Historical Department). (Emphasis added). Available online at UTLM.

Young reinforced the doctrine in no uncertain terms, leaving no room for doubt as to the conditions of God’s curse. According to Young as prophet of God: “On that very day, and hour we should do so, the preisthood [sic] is taken from this Church and kingdom and God leaves us to our fate.” Thus doctrinally, the moment the Church gave the Priesthood to all races, the Priesthood was taken from the Earth and the Church left to its fate. How then could God change his mind, unless Young was, after all, not a prophet and led the Church astray on this point, which was considered absolute doctrine?

How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? That curse will remain upon them, and they never can hold the priesthood or share in it untill all other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the priesthood and the keys thereof. Until the last ones of the residue of Adam’s children are brought up to that favorable position, the children of Cain cannot receive the first ordinances of the priesthood. They were the first that were cursed, and they will be the last from whom the curse will be removed. When the residue of the family of Adam come up and receive their blessings then the curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will receive blessings in like proportion. (Brigham Young, 9 October 1859. JD 7:290-91). (Emphasis added).

That could not be clearer, yet God’s stance, declared by a prophet, was violated by a later prophet who was somehow able to rationalise his way around the contradiction to doctrine and ultimately persuade all the apostles to agree. A Church cannot be true when it changes God’s unchangeable laws. Doctrinally, the Mormon God told Cain that his seed had to await all the seed of Abel having received the opportunity of receiving the Priesthood before they could even be considered. The 1978 change makes a liar of the Mormon God.

The Church is adamant that it has never taught the idea that Native Africans were ‘lukewarm’ or ‘sat on the fence’ in the pre-existence. Nevertheless, there have been talks that have led many Mormons to repeat things which materially suggest such was the case.

The negro is an unfortunate man. He has been given a black skin. But that is as nothing compared with that greater handicap that he is not permitted to receive the Priesthood and the ordinances of the temple, necessary to prepare men and women to enter into and enjoy a fulness of glory in the celestial kingdom. What is the reason for this condition, we ask, and I find it to my satisfaction to think that as spirit children of our Eternal Father they were not valiant in the fight. We are told that Michael and his angels fought, and we understand that we stood with Christ our Lord, on the platform, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” I cannot conceive our Father consigning his children to a condition such as that of the negro race, if they had been valiant in the spirit world in that war in heaven. Neither could they have been a part of those who rebelled and were cast down, for the latter had not the privilege of tabernacling in the flesh. Somewhere along the line were these spirits, indifferent perhaps, and possibly neutral in the war. We have no definite knowledge concerning this. But I learn this lesson from it, brethren and sisters, and I believe we all should, that it does not pay in religious matters, matters that pertain to our eternal salvation, to be indifferent, neutral, or lukewarm… (Apostle George F. Richards. Conference report April 1939).

Richards (an apostle) stated (in Conference) that we have no definite knowledge about it and yet he made statements that were to remain a tradition in the Church for decades.

In 1954, another apostle, Mark E. Petersen, made the following (extremely controversial and racially prejudicial) remarks.

…Is there reason then why the type of birth we receive in this life is not a reflection of our worthiness or lack of it in the pre-existent life? We must accept the justice of God. He is fair to all. He is not a respector of persons. He will meet to us according to what we deserve. With that in mind, we can account in no other way for the birth of some of the children of God in darkest Africa, or in flood-ridden China, or among the starving hordes of India, whilst some of the rest of us are born in the United States? We cannot escape the conclusion that because of performance in our pre-existence some of us are born as Chinese, some as Japanese, some as Indians, some as Negroes, some as Americans, some as Latter-day Saints. There are rewards and punishments, fully in harmony with His established policy of dealing with sinners and saints, regarding all according to their deeds.

…Is it not a reasonable belief that the Lord would select the most choice spirits to come to the better grades of nations? Is it not reasonable to believe that less worthy spirits would come through less favored lineage? Does this not account in very large part for the various grades of color and degrees of intelligence we find in the earth?

…Now let’s talk segregation again for a few moments… When the Lord chose the nations to which the spirits were to come, determining that some would be Japanese and some would be Chinese and some Negroes and some Americans, He engaged in an act of segregation…Who placed the Negroes originally in darkest Africa? Was it some man, or was it God? And when He placed them there, He segregated them… At least in the cases of the Lamanites and the Negroes we have the definite word of the Lord Himself that He placed a dark skin upon them as a curse… He forbade intermarriage… He certainly segregated the descendants of Cain when He cursed the Negro as to the Priesthood, and drew an absolute line. You may even say He dropped an iron curtain there…

…Let us consider the great mercy of God for a moment. A Chinese, born in China with a dark skin, and with all the handicaps of that race seems to have little opportunity. But think of the mercy of God to Chinese people who are willing to accept the gospel. In spite of whatever they might have done in the pre-existence to justify being born over there as Chinamen, if they now, in this life, accept the gospel and live it the rest of their lives they can have the Priesthood, go to the temple and receive endowments and sealings, and that means they can have exaltation. Isn’t the mercy of God marvelous?

Think of the Negro, cursed as to the Priesthood… This negro, who, in the pre-existence lived the type of life which justified the Lord in sending him to the earth in the lineage of Cain with a black skin, and possibly being born in darkest Africa–if that negro is willing when he hears the gospel to accept it, he may have many of the blessings of the gospel. In spite of all he did in the pre-existent life, the Lord is willing, if the Negro accepts the gospel with real, sincere faith, and is really converted, to give him the blessings of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get celestial glory…

I have to say that having discovered the above, I am ashamed to have been associated with such men and such a Church. Petersen tells a story (supposedly faith promoting) of a ‘Negro’ who joined the Church. Later, he and his family moved to a Branch where they were not welcome. The members all said they would leave if the family attended church, so the Branch President told them they could not attend. Petersen tells how faithful they were and that he met them in their home and had his wife send them books. He did nothing to correct the situation and (by his non-intervention) evidently considered it the right of white members to choose not to worship with ‘Negroes’. He continues:

…Well, what about the removal of the curse? We know what the Lord has said in the Book of Mormon in regard to the Lamanites – they shall become a white and delightsome people. [Note: Of course, it now says ‘pure’ and delightsome, so perhaps God will not make them white after all; but Petersen thought He would.] I know of no scripture having to do with the removal of the curse from the Negro… Brigham Young has said… “When all of the other children of Adam have had the privilege of receiving the Priesthood … and have received the resurrection from the dead, then it will be time enough to remove the curse…”

We must not intermarry with the Negro. Why? If I were to marry a Negro woman and have children by her, my children would all be cursed as to the Priesthood. Do I want my children cursed as to the priesthood? If there is one drop of Negro blood in my children, as I have read to you, they receive the curse. There isn’t any argument, therefore, as to inter-marriage with the Negro, is there? There are 50 million Negroes in the United States. If they were to achieve complete absorption with the white race, think what that would do. With 50 million Negroes intermarried with us, where would the Priesthood be? Who could hold it, in all America? Think what that would do to the work of the Church!

Now we are generous with the negro [sic]… I would be willing to let every Negro drive a cadillac if they could afford it. I would be willing that they have all the advantages they can get out of life in the world. But let them enjoy these things among themselves. I think the Lord segregated the Negro and who is man to change that segregation? …what God hath separated, let not man bring together again.

What is our advice with respect to intermarriage with Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiians and so on?… Hawaiians should marry Hawaiians, the Japanese ought to marry the Japanese, and the Chinese ought to marry Chinese, and the Caucasians should marry Caucasians, just exactly as … Latter-day Saints ought to marry Latter-day Saints. (Race Problems – As They Affect the Church. Address by Apostle Mark E. Petersen. Convention of Teachers of Religion on the College Level, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 27 Aug 1954 – available via an online search). (Emphasis added).

Petersen was condescending, patronising and demeaning (and racist in the extreme), concerned about the need for segregation, and publicly stated that the Chinese are an inferior race due to something they must have done in the pre-existence. How is that doctrine? The question had previously arisen (18 May 1879) as to ‘whether all “colored” people are denied priesthood; John Taylor rules that Chinese are eligible to receive priesthood’ (Quinn 1997: 776). Are white Americans the supreme race? Considering the fact that they come from everywhere except America, that idea is rich indeed. Petersen also confirms that a faithful ‘Negro’ can go to the celestial kingdom but only as a servant.

Segregation is endorsed and taught as insisted upon by God. Petersen’s attitude is not only as condescending as it is racist; it is claimed to not actually be the fault, or even the desire, of Mormons; it is all down to God. His deeply delusional state led Petersen to conclude “the mercy of God marvelous” that somewhat cursed Chinese can have the Priesthood and go to the temple, despite whatever they did in the pre-existence which resulted in them being saddled with the country in which they were born and the colour that they are. Only religion can create such bigotry, by using the rationale that God requires it. Religion (along with its man-made God) has a lot to answer for. Mormonism is no exception; it is in fact, a classic example of an organisation with a history of extreme (including racial) prejudices.

Brigham Young was even more adamant about colour when gave this stark warning:

Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so. (Brigham Young. JD. V. 10:110. The Tabernacle. 8 Mar 1863).(Emphasis added).

God would not of course personally kill someone “on the spot” but there were plenty of his ‘servants’ ready to step up and help with that without any hesitation. (See: TMD Volume 3, Section 4: Blood Atonement). Although I have heard it said that some of Brigham Young’s remarks should not be taken too seriously (they say he had a wry sense of humour), in order to excuse some of the now unacceptable things he said, the above words sound serious enough to me. The following statement is specific and direct, from the stand, as a prophet. The above statements of Brigham Young all fall into the ‘sermon’ category.

I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture. (Brigham Young. JD. V.13:95, In the Tabernacle,Salt Lake City, 2 Jan 1870).

For the Church to maintain that Brigham Young did not mean what he said regarding intermarriage, they have to explain why the following happened which emphasises and evidences the reaction to Young’s preaching and actions clearly deriving from what he taught.

In December 1866 Brigham Young Jr., wrote that “a nigger” was found dead in Salt Lake City, with a note pinned to the corpse: “Let this be a warning to all niggers that they meddle not with white women.” The non-Mormon newspaper identified the victim as Thomas Coleman, “a member of the Mormon church.” Brigham Jr., then an ordained apostle and special counselor in the First Presidency, recorded no value judgement about this killing. It had fulfilled his father’s public announcement three years earlier that for miscegenation (race-mixing with African-Americans), “the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot.” (Quinn 1997:256).

This murder was reported in the newspapers and well known to all. Did Young stand up the following Sunday to decry the act and renounce it as evil and abhorrent? Did he seek out the perpetrators in order to mete out appropriate justice? Did he say that he had not really meant that “the penalty … death on the spot” should be taken literally? No, he most certainly did not. Someone had killed an African-American member of the Church for having a relationship with a white woman. He had been killed in complete accordance with Young’s undeniable declaration concerning the “law of God”. Youngignored it and no one was ever held to account. It was clearly considered to have been a murder justified as in fulfilment of the outcome of violating a declared law of God.

It was always taught, in my early Church days, that we should marry like people; that is, of the same religion and certainly the same race and class, and not to intermarry. General Authority talks included such; “Chinese should marry Chinese” etc. I can find no mention made of that principle since the Priesthood was “extended to all men”. If God segregated people and said it is wrong to intermarry with any race, what happened to that doctrine?

I am happy that the Priesthood is given to all men and wish it always had been, but it cannot be doctrinally justified by the Church, according to the prophecy previously given. There was never a revelation about extending the priesthood to all men. After years of deliberation, the prophet (Spencer W. Kimball) simply ‘felt good’ and that the time had come to make a change. This was after years of internal debate and disagreement within the quorum, coupled with ever increasing external pressure, as it became more and more politically incorrect to be as racial as the doctrine appeared. The apostles all finally conceded and concurred with the prophet after a late night prayer in their upper room (holy of holies) in the temple. The brethren would have been aware of the fact that their decision flew in the face of specific prophecy made in the name of the Lord by a previous Prophet, in that it would nothappen until after all the seed of Abel had received the Priesthood. That ‘prophecy’ (now unfulfilled and effectively nullified) leaves a theologically insurmountable problem which appears to have been completely ignored in making what can only be described as a ‘politically correct’ decision.

All the accusations about racial discrimination were at once immediately resolved, but that was at the expense of yet another one of God’s previously declared immutable and unchangeable laws being changed without Him giving explanation or revelation.

Equally, I am not unhappy that the word ‘white’ be changed in the Book of Mormon if it is to clarify a doctrinally established position and if Joseph Smith misinterpreted it. The change doesn’t affect the fact that the original prophecy was made and believed, but it does appear to change the Church position on the prophecy, the original text, and the 1831 revelation. Ergo, the book, the Church and its prophets are all false.

Taking things on faith is one thing, but being expected to accept a change to what you have considered specific unchangeable doctrine all your life, is very hard to accommodate.

I do not believe the Church has been deliberately racist. The problems stem from a real belief that Native Africans were cursed by God because of actions by Cain against Abel, coupled with a deficiency of their own, displayed in some manner during their life prior to coming to this earth. There are other very ‘black’ races and tribes who were always allowed the Priesthood, but no one ever explains why all the other extremely black and yet not cursed races are then born black. There is no theological Mormon answer to that question. Of course, we know the scientific answer to all of it, but Mormonism leaves gaping holes in any attempted theological explanation of this area of its belief.

It was never about colour per se (despite Petersen’s silly remarks about “Chinamen” etc.). It was always about the perceived ‘curse’ that was marked by skin colour. That applied to both Native Africans and Native Americans. It is therefore, God’s punishment and their fault that they were born with a ‘black’ and dark (or so-called ‘red’) skin respectively. This concept was never deliberately entertained as racist; it was just accepted as situational. It is the way that it is and only God can explain it. Smith’s perception of slavery was that it was the heritage of the race. He favoured abolition of slavery and at least two African-American men were ordained Elders, one becoming a Seventy and serving a mission during Smith’s lifetime. This caused some problems for the Church after the turn of the twentieth century when offspring wanted the same treatment (and got it), although temple ordinances were denied them.

In 1978, the climate was becoming so severe regarding racism that the Church was finally forced to find a way round God’s proclamation that the sons of Cain would never be given the Priesthood until all the sons of Abel had had the chance to receive it. How could that doctrine ever be altered? The issue was debated long and hard by the apostles, over many years. ‘Old school’ members of the quorum had to pass away before more moderate apostles began to accept the Prophet’s eventual (inevitable) capitulation on the issue.

The solution to the problem was simple. Kimball ‘felt’ the time was right and that God was ready to change His unchangeable mind. God was more than less specific than He had been when the idea was originally ‘revealed’. He did not appear to anyone and He did not speak to anyone. Nor did he have anyone put Smith’s old ‘seer stone’, which is still in the Church’s possession, into a hat to see what that would tell them. The only way they had an inkling that God had finally changed His mind, was through ‘feelings’ (which some apostles had to work on for years until deluded enough to comply) when they finally concluded that their prayers were all answered the same way. It is strange that over the years, as one or two more became ready to support the prophet’s feeling that the ‘time was right’, others took more years to overcome their cognitive dissonance before finally giving in to the pressure of the majority. That was God’s method of revelation that it was time. No ‘thus saith the Lord’ occurred regarding a decision which constituted a complete contradiction to established doctrine.

The ‘curse’ was lifted. At that precise moment (presumably) all those who needed the Priesthood withheld, due to something they did in their pre-existent state, had miraculously already come to Earth and all future Native Africans were not guilty of anything. The colour that had defined the ‘curse’ remained however. God, apparently, did not deem it appropriate to remove that part of the curse and have all future Native Africans born pure and white like the chosen (American) race. God doesn’t seem to interfere with DNA or genetics. Yet He definitely promised Native Americans that their curse of a dark skin would be removed if they intermarried and joined the Mormon Church. Kimball asserted that he could see that happening when he was an apostle, yet saw no such thing for them (or for Native Africans) as a prophet. Delusion knows no bounds. (See ‘Kimball’ quote, ‘White & Delightsome’ pp. 248-249). The Mormon God seems to move in more mysterious ways than the God of any other religion, Christian or otherwise. The problem just disappeared overnight (along with a number of members who objected to the unchangeable change).

It was not that God appeared and revealed a change to the unchangeable and eternal doctrine. The prophet had wanted to get rid of the problem for a long time but there was always at least some opposition in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. Finally, in 1978, Kimball got all the apostles to agree to the change. There was no explanation as to why God, who had previously categorically stated that Native Africans could not be given the Priesthood until everyone else had been given the opportunity, agreed to withdraw the six-thousand year old curse. Kimball simply said they had talked about it, prayed about it and felt that it was time and it was right. They relied on the psychology of feelings after trying for a long time to convince themselves it was right and would be acceptable to God and to members. The rest of the world could care less, other than the doctrine appeared racist. God didn’t have a say in the matter in the end. His ‘representatives’ simply said they ‘felt good’ about it.

When the decision was first announced, I for one, knowing the underlying doctrine, whilst being delighted that everyone could now hold the Priesthood and pleased that the problem of explaining it had at last gone, nevertheless, had to rationalise it with my own concept (and previous testimony) that it was God’s law and should never be questioned, let alone ever changed. My wife Jan, and I, discussed it and decided to accept, rather than question when we were told that the Lord had revealed that it was time. I trusted and accepted that statement and never asked why. I suppose I wanted it to be that way.

It is only now, thirty years later, that I have discovered it was not a revelation from God at all. That was not made clear to us at the time. It was portrayed as a direct revelation from God. The question to ask is this: If slavery had never been abolished and if the current tide of popular opinion was that African Americans were a subservient race with a lower place in society, as was still the case in the early 1800s, would God have directed, in 1978, that the time was right for them to receive the Priesthood and be equal to other men in the Mormon Church? Absolutely not; public opinion would have dictated that it was a ludicrous proposition, both inside and outside the Church. God does not get a real vote on such issues; unless that is, the Church wants to concede that God Himself is swayed by the tide of popular opinion.

Having tried to put the ‘white and delightsome’ and the ‘black and cursed’ issues behind them, the future looks no brighter for the Church, as they still face bigger problems that will be even harder to overcome.

“The three greatest threats to the Church are homosexuals, feminists and intellectuals.” (Apostle Boyd K. Packer. May 1993 c. in: Line Upon Line – Mormonism Transcended DVD). Available from the Exmormon Foundation.

(Copyright © 2009, 2013. Jim Whitefield)


September 2013

I was recently asked about the prolific use of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. In my response, I quoted a short section from The Mormon Delusion, Volume 2. For anyone who may be interested, I have also made it available here.


Joseph Smith, Captain Kidd, Cumorah And Moroni. The latest article by Grant Palmer which has been accepted for publication and will appear in the Spring issue of 2014, in The John Whitmer Historical Journal, is well worth a read.