1968-1970: The Civil Rights Movement Comes to BYU

October 21, 2009
By

BYU-1The 1960s was a time of turmoil in the United States. This turmoil extended to American college campuses. It focused on the Free Speech Movement and civil rights in the south, and gradually extended to the U.S. involvement in the war in Southeast Asia. Some American colleges remained unmolested by the times. One was Brigham Young University.

This would not last. In the late 1960s, BYU became the focus of protests at its athletic competitions, over the LDS Church policy of barring blacks from the priesthood.

byu-2The July 15, 1968 edition of Newsweek featured the cover story “The Angry Black Athlete,” which stated: 

It is a mess that extends from Niagara to the University of California, from Michigan to the University of Texas at El Paso. Sometimes the racial issue is inflamed by a coach’s get-tough policy.  “I could give in to a lot of Negro demands,” says one Southwestern track coach, “and keep my team intact. But someone has to hold the line against these people.”

At El Paso, track coach Wayne Vandenburg threatened to kick six athletes off the team if they joined the boycott of the New York Athletic Club indoor meet in February. The club was charged with discriminatory membership policies. Vandenburg won and the athletes competed. But two months later, after a talk with Harry Edwards, the same athletes refused to enter a meet at Brigham Young University in Utah because of Mormon doctrines about blacks. Vandenburg promptly dropped champion long-jumper Bob Beamon and five others from the squad.

Coach Vandenberg sued Newsweek for defamation and, though he won a jury verdict, it was ultimately reversed on appeal, based on the court’s finding that the statements were not made with reckless disregard for the truth. The court credited as accurate the account of how, in April 1968, several black athletes at UTEP decided to boycott the BYU meet because, inter alia, of their understanding of Mormon beliefs concerning blacks. Officials at UTEP, including Coach Vandenburg, responded with a statement that any athlete who did not participate in the BYU meet would be “voluntarily disassociated.” from the track team. Vandenburg v. Newsweek, Inc., 441 F.2d 378 (5th Cir. 1971); Vandenburg v. Newsweek, Inc., 507 F.2d 1024 (5th Cir. 1975)

On October 17, 1969, at approximately 9:30 a.m., 14 members of the University of Wyoming football team confronted Head Football Coach Lloyd Eaton and members of his coaching staff in Memorial Fieldhouse at the University of Wyoming. They were all wearing black armbands, and their spokesman was Joe Harold Williams, who was then serving as team tri-captain. The players had provided the coach with a letter dated October 14, 1969, addressed to Dr. William D. Carlson, President of the University of Wyoming, signed by Willie S. Black, as Chancellor of the Black Students Alliance, an organization on the campus of the University of Wyoming, demanding that:

(a) University officials at the University of Wyoming, as well as other member institutions in the Western Athletic Conference, not use student monies and university facilities to play host to and thereby in part sanction alleged inhuman racist policies of the Mormon Church.

(b) That athletic directors in the Western Athletic Conference refuse to schedule and play games with BYU so long as the Mormon Church continues such alleged policies.

(c) That black athletes in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) protest in some way any contest with BYU so long as the Mormon Church continued such alleged policies, and

(d) That all white people of good will, athletes included, protest with their black fellows a policy allegedly clearly inhuman and racist and that the symbol of protest be the black armband worn throughout any contest involving BYU.

Coach Eaton told the players that a rule prohibited members of the University of Wyoming football team from participating in demonstrations and protests, and he advised  Williams that there would be no demonstrations or protests within the scheduled football game between Wyoming and BYU. When the players persisted and, at the behest of the university’s highest officials, they were kicked off the team. Williams v. Eaton, 310 F.Supp. 1342 (D. Wyo. 197); Williams v. Eaton, 443 F.2d 422 (10th Cir. 1971); Williams v. Eaton, 333 F.Supp. 107 (D. Wyo. 1971); Williams v. Eaton, 468 F.2d 1079 (10th Cir. 1972).

The University of New Mexico student government, as a WAC-member school,was in the process of reviewing the University of Wyoming letter.  On November 12, 1969, the BYU Daily Universe published a letter to editor from Brian Mazill of Las Vegas, New Mexico. The letter read:

I am one non-Mormon who thinks the notion of the University of New Mexico’s student Senate is one of the most unreasonable examples of the bigoted minds of so-called ‘liberals’ I’ve ever seen.

In the first place, BYU is a privately-endowed school. It is not supported by the taxpayers like the other universities are members of the WAC.

Mainly, the reason for Negro athletes being at the other schools stems not from any great degree of humanitarianism on the part of those institutions. To the contrary, the reason for many, or even most, of Negro athletes being at these schools is because of their acknowledged athletic ability. The alumni preferred these schools during the past 10-15 years to give athletic scholarships to Negro athletes to assure success for their teams.

The Negro athletes have won games for these schools, they have seen and heard the coed cheerleaders go into hysterical frenzy over their exploits—only to find, after the game was over, they were supposed to keep their place. They were led to believe that by attending otherwise predominantly ‘white’ (a silly word, if you examine it closely) schools, the Negroes would be pals with all the other students and it didn’t work out that way. Now, the more militant want their own dorms, eating facilities, etc.

On the other hand, Brigham Young University has competed with the other members of WAC handicapped by not having black athletes on their teams, but the students, and alums, have registered no complaints. Mind you, BYU is not tax supported, therefore, I ask what the hell business it is of your sanctimonious hypocrites who the BYU administration wants to have on its campus?

The Negroes have reached the state in their development in this country at which anyone who doesn’t agree with them is considered a ‘racist,’ or bigot.  The white students at schools such as New Mexico who voted for the expulsion of BYU from WAC don’t give a real hoot about their black brothers. They just consider it the in-thing to be ‘liberal’ about such matters.

If the LDS only want to have whites for the priesthood, what business of the Negroes? Do they have members of the Black Muslims, the Black Panthers, who are ‘white’? As a Protestant, such as I am, can I take communion at a Catholic Church? As a non-Mason can I attend the secret sessions of the organization? All the more power to Brigham Young.

After Ezra Taft Benson’s death in 1994, a photocopy of this letter was found in his papers.  The final paragraph of the letter, in the margin, were two words written in Benson’s handwriting: “Very good.”

A WAC basketball game between Colorado State University and BYU was scheduled for February 5, 1970, in Moby Gymnasium on the CSU Campus at Fort Collins, Colorado.

During the game’s halftime intermission, pom pom girls from BYU were performing on the basketball floor when a group of persons (largely students) invaded the basketball court carrying signs of protest against the claimed discriminatory practices of the Mormon Church and BYU. This group marched the length of the floor and disrupted the girls’ performance. Campus police and City of Fort Collins police were called, and they attempted to control the melee. A fight broke out between an employee who was trying to wipe down the basketball floor and several of the demonstrators, and it was stopped by the police only with substantial difficulty. A flaming missile was thrown from the stands onto the floor. Someone either threw or wielded a lethal piece of steel angle iron which struck a press photographer in the head. Tempers of many of the spectators (including the tempers of the overwhelming majority of the students in attendance) became short, and the rage of the crowd at the unauthorized interruption of the halftime activities and delay of play of the second half became dangerously apparent. The situation was tense, and panic or a riot was more than a mere possibility. However, the police were able to cajole the demonstrators into leaving the floor before serious injury occurred. Evans v. State Bd. of Agriculture, 325 F.Supp. 1353 (D.Colo. 1971).

Eight years later, the Church lifted the ban on blacks holding the priesthood.

Tags: , , , ,

82 Responses to 1968-1970: The Civil Rights Movement Comes to BYU

  1. October 21, 2009 at 7:30 am

    Another outstanding post, Jeff.

  2. Dan
    October 21, 2009 at 8:03 am

    Why did we have to go through this kind of crap?

  3. October 21, 2009 at 8:47 am

    I found it interesting. I work with a guy who is african-american (whatever that means) who was a part of the BYU Young Ambassadors singing group (which is, I assume, the picture at the top of this post). A great guy, and an incredible singer. Strong in the faith. It’s interesting to see the changes in public opinion over the years. Just an observation, I guess.

  4. Aaron
    October 21, 2009 at 8:49 am

    No one ever talks about this, but I remember classes at BYU in the 1960s in which some of the most racist anti-black comments were made and never once did a professor try to correct a student in any way. BYU athletics may have served as the lightning rod for BYU critics, but a close look at the rest of the school would have demonstrated a deap-seated racism that is very hard to explain away.

  5. Clark
    October 21, 2009 at 9:01 am

    No additional comments about black armbands being banned on campus by the BYU police? I agree with Aaron that this went deeper than just athletics. And what’s up with the BYU singer (3rd from right) with a moustache?

  6. Eric
    October 21, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Or the men’s hair creeping over the tops of the ears?

  7. Mike S
    October 21, 2009 at 10:38 am

    I wonder how people are going to look at some of the Proposition 8 rhetoric 30-40 years from now…

  8. Douglas Hunter
    October 21, 2009 at 10:44 am

    “The Negroes have reached the state in their development in this country at which anyone who doesn’t agree with them is considered a ‘racist,’ or bigot.”

    I’m going to hope that most readers can identify the overt racism of the letter included in the OP quite easily, but take the line I’ve quoted, replace the words negroes and racist with the words gays and homophobe and you have a common statements made by church members in 2009.

  9. Cowboy
    October 21, 2009 at 11:26 am

    On the one hand, it is clear that BYU was only a product of it’s time and generation. I can even make that concession for President Benson, who was not only a Church leader, but somewhat of a political leader as well. They have since dropped this line of thinking which pervaded much of America, and that is commendable as an institution, and so institutionally I find this rehashing of history of little value other than preserving an awareness of histories fumbles and recoveries. Theologically, this is still a major stick in the spokes of a Church and people who are directed by God. It seems social politics is more at play than most are willing to admit, giving tremendous validity to Douglas Hunters comment. Particularly considering that in the sixties and early seventies the general attitude was that the race ban would persist to at least the millenium.

  10. brjones
    October 21, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    “I find this rehashing of history of little value other than preserving an awareness of histories fumbles and recoveries.”

    Cowboy, I would be more inclined to agree with this statement if it weren’t for the church’s similar position on other current political issues; namely gay rights and gay marriage. I agree that the church deserves credit for abandoning the racist policy toward blacks, as a discreet act. They had a racist policy and they reversed it. There’s no denying that fact, regardless of the motives behind it. That said, i don’t think it has to be viewed as a turning point in church history with respect to treatment of minorities or dealing with civil rights issues. From a theological viewpoint, the church is not compelled to pay particular respect to civil rights, at least as defined by society, and has shown over the years that it will disregard them if it chooses. Obviously if you believe the church is true, then you believe it is led by an authority higher than that of man or government, and if god instructs the church to disregard a civil right, then so be it. Joseph Smith demonstrated this by destroying a printing press because he disagreed with the content of its publication; the church did this by discriminating against blacks long after law and social custom had moved on, and it continues to do it with respect to gays, even though law and modern society is evolving in this area as well. Again, this is not a qualitative judgment about those policies, rather I’m responding to the point that we should somehow turn the page on the church’s period of discrimination against blacks, because its attitude about such things has changed. I don’t think the evidence necessarily bears this out. From that perspective, I think it’s entirely appropriate to continue to revisit that period and the church’s response to those issues then and since then.

  11. Jeff Spector
    October 21, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    “giving tremendous validity to Douglas Hunters comment.’

    Hardly. Clearly a product of its time, you could probably find this sort of letter emanating from all corners of the country, In fact, even from some of the more progressive institutions. The civil rights movement was a people-driven change, the institutions were laggards and some had to be dragged kicking and screaming (Can you say south? I knew you could).

    The letter was right in that colleges and universities were/are more interested in having winning sport teams than the plight of disadvantaged African Americans who play on those teams.

  12. Douglas Hunter
    October 21, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    “Hardly. Clearly a product of its time, you could probably find this sort of letter emanating from all corners of the country, In fact, even from some of the more progressive institutions. The civil rights movement was a people-driven change, the institutions were laggards and some had to be dragged kicking and screaming (Can you say south? I knew you could).”

    It does not matter if the letter was a product of its time, if it expressed common ideas, or if different institutions needed to be dragged kicking and screaming. The question for us Mormons is “Why did OUR institution need to be dragged kicking and screaming?” This is a valid question, and it raises challenging issues. As it turns out some of these issues are still very much at play in 2009.

  13. Thomas
    October 21, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    “Why did OUR institution need to be dragged kicking and screaming?”

    Because our institution, more than most, is characterized by institutional inertia.

    Joseph Smith saw Jesus Christ in person, standing on the breastwork of the Kirtland Temple. He wrote dozens upon dozens of revelations couched in the voice of the Lord himself.

    His successors don’t have any such dramatic revelations — or, if they do, they for some unexplained reason believe they (unlike Joseph) should keep them secret. Understandably, then, they may be reluctant to change policies instituted by a Man Who Communed With Jehovah in a much clearer fashion than the channels of quiet, intuitive revelation they must use today. President Kimball’s decision in 1978 took great spiritual courage.

    The Church probably was no more institutionally racist than any other aspect of America at the time. However, it was much more institutionally conservative, which led to the perpetuation of doctrines that were racist in their effect if not their intention.

    “[A]nyone who doesn’t agree with them is considered a ‘racist,’ or bigot.”

    And as long as “racism” — which is just one particularly obnoxious species of human malice — is so highly privileged, such that conventionally-defined righteousness with respect to that one sin hides a multitude of other sins — that idiotic logic will continue to be offered.

  14. Jeff Spector
    October 21, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Douglas, 12,

    ““Why did OUR institution need to be dragged kicking and screaming?”

    Well, the Church’s position was theologically-based, not socially based (Which has been debated, but it was in place for that reason, right or wrong). Most other organizations had social based restrictions. Just like they did for Jews, Catholics/Italian, Irish, Chinese, etc.

    So while you want to make the situation restricted to Blacks and unique to Blacks, it was in fact not by a long shot. Similar letters could have been written about all those other groups I mentioned.

  15. Cowboy
    October 21, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    “Hardly. Clearly a product of its time, you could probably find this sort of letter emanating from all corners of the country, In fact, even from some of the more progressive institutions.”

    Jeff:

    If you go back and re-read my comment you will see that this was exactly my point, that the racist policies and attitudes of the Church were a product of the time and broader culture. However what this shows is that the Church is largely at the mercy of conservative social politics. After all, if we can excuse Brigham Youngs outrageous racial fau paux’s in the spirit of primitive thinking, then how can we argue with a certainty that the current issues surrounding homosexuality, are not born of the same spirit. That was the point of Douglas Hunters comment (#08), to show the timelessness and similarity of the Church’s position on matters of civil liberties.

    BrJones:

    I see your point when considering Church policy and discourse surrounding equal rights in the aggregate. I was attempting to specifically address the Church’s on race. That being said, historically the Church has started off on the wrong side of the big three civil rights matters of this century, ie, race – womens rights – marriage. They have completely reversed the policy on race, and muddled the “doctrine”. On womens issues, they still stress the idea of the traditional stay at home mom, but seem to have quietly become more tolerant of women in the workforce (likely due to the issues social unsustainability). I think things are still early in the stages of same sex issues. My guess is that as long as homosexuality can be argued as possibly a matter of choice, then the Church will continue this debate. They seem to be losing confidence in that position however by the way most of their comments on the matter are becoming quite gaurded, Elder Hafens remarks notwithstanding. If at some future point the evidence for homosexual attraction becomes unarguably genetic, it won’t be long that after that the Church dismisses it’s current position. They will credit the greater enlightenment of that time, in contrast to our primitiveness today, as ample justification for current Church policy. Then it will be, “look, we’ve moved beyond that. Let’s not trifle over these little flecks of history, just follow the Prophet because he knows the way”.

  16. Douglas Hunter
    October 21, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    “““Why did OUR institution need to be dragged kicking and screaming?”

    Well, the Church’s position was theologically-based, not socially based (Which has been debated, but it was in place for that reason, right or wrong). Most other organizations had social based restrictions. Just like they did for Jews, Catholics/Italian, Irish, Chinese, etc.”

    Believe me I was not asking you to answer that question. Further, the claim that the Church’s position was theological in nature rather than social is far from a given. Even if it was (is) theological in nature, that doesn’t actually add anything to the discussion. Bad theology has a long history when it comes to race or more broadly prejudice. Perhaps what you want to say is that in our case it was revelatory in nature? (or something else stronger than theological.)

    What I find interesting is that basically all other American Christian institutions that were around in the 19th century and continue into the 20th (with the possible exception of the Quakers) have had to deal with the issues of racism, slavery, jim crow, civil rights etc. A common response from institutions that at one time advanced pro-slavery or racists thinking has been to say that the advancement of such thinking was the result of human prejudice working to find theological justification; but that justification was exactly that, and the theological arguments have been soundly rejected.

    I often get the feelings that regardless what the outcome may be, we Mormons lack the fortitude and desire to closely examine Mormon culture’s various ways of dealing with race. There are two points here. First the teachings of the Church and the statements of our leaders could (should?) be examined and considered from more points of view. Second, Mormon culture in relation to the institutional church or not, could also be examined in the same way.

    “So while you want to make the situation restricted to Blacks and unique to Blacks”

    Do I? Where did I state so?

    “Similar letters could have been written about all those other groups I mentioned.”

    Prejudice was and is wide spread and different groups have terrible trouble dealing with one another. Be that as it may, it doesn’t say anything about the specific issue, and context under discussion.

  17. Jeff Breinholt
    October 21, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    I have a more cynical view of the Church’s opposition to gay marriage, which is undoudtedly informed by the fact that I am a product of the northeast. If homosexuals can marry, it will be harder for the LDS Church to punish people for homosexual acts committed within an arrangement that has the imprimatur of the state. The power to punish “violations of the standards” is a large component of an institution’s authority, something it does not give up lightly. That’s what we seeing now. Go ahead and call me faithless. Perhaps I am, but I am also an avid student of group dynamics.

  18. brjones
    October 21, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    #18 – Jeff, I’m guessing this position is not based in revealed scripture.

  19. Jeff Breinholt
    October 21, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Ha! You got that right.

  20. Douglas Hunter
    October 21, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    #15- Very well said!

  21. Cowboy
    October 21, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Jeff:

    If I understand you correctly, you are saying that the Church would have a hard time issuing Church discipline for things which bear some sort of state approval. If that is the case then I would have to disagree. The consumption of alcohol comes to mind as an obvious example of something which has broad support from the State, where the Church advances a clear policy of abstinence.

  22. Dan
    October 21, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Thomas,

    #13,

    “Why did OUR institution need to be dragged kicking and screaming?”

    Because our institution, more than most, is characterized by institutional inertia.

    I disagree with that wholeheartedly. In an instant of a blink of an eye, the whole church changed its views on blacks in 1978. The reason why our institution needed to be dragged kicking and screaming has more to do with its religious nature than anything else. Religions hate, and I mean HATE to be proven wrong about something. If a religion takes a stand, they do so with the belief that their words are the words of the Highest Authority in the universe. Surely their position is correct and the rest of the non-revelatory world is utterly wrong. This was clearly evident by Elder Bruce R McConkie’s rationale for why the earlier position on blacks was right at the time, and after that instant in 1978, they were no longer correct: they were working on “limited knowledge” without admitting they were working on limited knowledge. They were resting their positions on their faith that their views were in line with God’s views. And upon God changing his views, so would they change their views. It is a highly conservative position to take, and it will always mean that on certain issues, the church, as an institution, will always lag behind the rest of society. On other issues, like the Word of Wisdom, the church has been well ahead of society, so it’s not a general principle. Who knows why the early leaders of the church allowed themselves to be bought into the erroneous belief that blacks were an inferior race. This wasn’t the universal thinking at the time, and the direction was towards truly realizing what Thomas Jefferson’s statement meant in reality: all men are created equal. It’s disappointing that Brigham Young didn’t ponder on that profound and inspired thought some more before declaring blacks an inferior species for something they didn’t even do.

    Anyways, I am surprised at how much I am still shocked that the religion I believe in has been this racist in its past, this blatant. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by how heavenly relations between the two races have been in my lifetime (I have never heard such racism coming from anyone I’ve known—except once, this guy I was rooming with my last semester at BYU, some old guy who had all sorts of memorabilia of the Confederate South—he was truly racist). In any case, I continue to remain shocked, mostly because my impression of history is that the large majority of Americans throughout this time didn’t have such racist views toward blacks and thus it is hard for me to latch on my own identity to the Mormon identity that has been so badly scarred in my view by racism. Was this kind of racism really that common throughout America as a whole? Maybe in the South, but my impression is that much of the Northeast and the West was not at all this racist.

  23. Dan
    October 21, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Jeff,

    #17

    If homosexuals can marry, it will be harder for the LDS Church to punish people for homosexual acts committed within an arrangement that has the imprimatur of the state.

    That’s been my thinking as well as the underlying reasoning behind the church’s stand on gay marriage, or any homosexual issue. The more such acts are tolerated by society, the harder it will be for the church to punish such acts. As to how much of a threat to society homosexuality is, few can make an argument that it brings about the destruction of that society. There is but one example where God himself destroyed a city due to possible homosexual acts, and even in that case, it was not solely for homosexual acts that the Lord destroyed Sodom. Homosexuality was a part, but not the underlying reason for the destruction of Sodom. Otherwise, numerous other societies not only survived but thrived even though homosexuality was tolerated or even embraced, for example the Greeks.

  24. Jeff Breinholt
    October 21, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Cowboy:
    You’re in good company – my sister made thatvery same argument in response to my theory. The answer, I think, is that the Church will have a helluva harder time telling two married people that they can’t have sex with each other than telling its members they shouldn’t drink or smoke. Why? Institutions can’t last if they intercede in the marital bedroom, which involves far more sacrosanct liberties than efforts against recognoized vices.

  25. Douglas Hunter
    October 21, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    By the way if folks have not seen it the film Nobody Knows is an important work that deals with the experiences of black latter day saints. Here is the Link:

    http://www.untoldstoryofblackmormons.com/

  26. sunnofabcrich
    October 21, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Dan, 1. Waiting for God to change his views before his spokesperson changes their views sounds in theory like probably the best way to run a “true” religion of course that left mormonism at the mercy of precedent set by Brigham Young. 2. I doubt your roomate was truly racist and doubt you have much of an enlightened view about the American civil war. 3. Maybe you could write a post on racism in Romania sometime? no? 4. That’s why Greece is still such a world power today huh?

  27. Thomas
    October 21, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    Dan #22: “In an instant of a blink of an eye, the whole church changed its views on blacks in 1978.” — That “blink of an eye” was at least two decades in the making. The culmination may have been an Augenblick, but the process was “institutional inertia” all the way through.

  28. Dan
    October 21, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    #26,

    1. couldn’t agree with you more.
    2. no, really, he was racist. I’m not overdescribing him. I’ve never met another person like him.
    3. I actually did. Jos Mafia! Sus Patria! It was actually my senior paper at BYU for my Comparative Politics class. :)
    4. Um, in terms of cultural influence, there have been few that have reaped as much reward as Greece. Don’t forget the hundreds of billions of dollars spent every two years by countries around the world to compete in the Olympics, the ultimate adoration of the male body.

    #27,

    I’d like to see evidence of movement within church leadership for a change of thought before 1978. I really would. So far, I’ve not heard anything.

  29. sunnofabcrich
    October 21, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    cool… I like the number system goin on… it’s pretty organized i’ll check out your paper tomorrow…

  30. October 21, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Dan, then you have really missed a lot if you’ve seen nothing.

  31. Dan
    October 21, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    Stephen,

    I’m relatively young and was baptized in 1987. I really missed that era.

  32. Dexter
    October 22, 2009 at 1:06 am

    Thanks for the article, Jeff. Very interesting.

    To me, history is repeating itself with the homosexuality issue. The church will follow society (slowly) and then claim it was revealed. If it’s revelation, why are we following social norms, instead of leading the way?

  33. South Bend Cougar
    October 22, 2009 at 3:57 am

    Wow. you call yourselves intellectuals? What a bunch of shallow thinkers. God is clearly a “racist” and you throw the term around like liberal weaklings that want to silence discourse by name calling. What about the history of the priesthood? What about the Levites? When was the priesthood ever a right? Which church has the theology of lineage and of a “pre-existance” on which to base the concept of being born into mortality based on previous actions? The supposed linkage to homosexuality is laughable. Really? Give me a break. The theological distinctions are too numerous to mention. I was never intimidated by those in the “great and spacious building that are pointing the finger of scorn.”

  34. October 22, 2009 at 5:18 am

    #23 – “That’s been my thinking as well as the underlying reasoning behind the church’s stand on gay marriage, or any homosexual issue. The more such acts are tolerated by society, the harder it will be for the church to punish such acts.”

    I don’t think so. Sexual activity outside of marriage has become fully tolerated by society, yet the church is still able to condemn it as a serious sin. The church sets its own standards of morality that have long deviated from the general society’s.

  35. Dan
    October 22, 2009 at 6:30 am

    SBC,

    #33

    What about the history of the priesthood? What about the Levites? When was the priesthood ever a right?

    Who has argued that the priesthood is a right? The Levites were given the Aaronic Priesthood and clearly only they were allowed it within the law of Moses. The argument for only the Levites to have the Aaronic Priesthood wasn’t based on some specious rationale of Original Sin. According to the Bible Dictionary the Aaronic Priesthood was limited to only those within Aaron’s Levitical tribe, but the Melchizedek Priesthood still did not have any limitations except of course worthiness. The argument against blacks receiving any portion of the priesthood was that they were somehow the descendants of Cain, and thus they were inferior to the rest of the world’s societies because of what Cain did. This argument is not scripturally backed. Ezekiel 18:19-20 states the following:

    19 Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live.
    20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

    This is the Lord speaking here. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father. This frustrates the belief that the sons of Cain shall bear the iniquity of their father. Hell, let’s revisit Genesis and figure out exactly what God told Cain. Genesis 4:

    10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.
    11 And now art thou acursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand;
    12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
    13 And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.
    14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.
    15 And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

    That’s a most interesting conversation. What’s so important about it is how minimal it is, and how relaxed the Lord seems to be in communicating with the world’s first murderer. The Lord still shows an abundance of love toward Cain. Cain’s punishment is that the fields, when tilled, will not bring him fruit. He will therefore be a fugitive and a vagabond (curious phrase, did they really have fugitives and vagabonds so early in the history of man?) Most importantly, Cain pleaded with the Lord saying “my punishment is greater than I can bear.” That implies that the punishment for Cain murdering Abel is that Cain won’t be able to reap the reward of his labors. That’s it. That’s the punishment. It’s the same in the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price.

    The next part is the most curious. Cain says “I’m driven out, and I’ll be hid from You, I will be a fugitive and a vagabond, and whoever finds me will kill me” (yet again another interesting phrase—exactly how prevalent were murders in that time?). Here is God’s answer. “Whoever slays Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” That’s pretty harsh for anyone that wants to do a revenge kill on Cain for killing Abel. I think the point is that God really doesn’t want people to get into the nasty cycle of revenge killings (you see this in places like the Balkans and Italy). Let God do the punishment, essentially (an interesting argument also for those who favor the death penalty—it seems that God is not in favor of it). Then comes the mark. “And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.” That’s it. That’s all we have for the “mark.” What was the purpose of the mark? To let people know this was Cain and that Cain should not be killed. Is there any indication that the mark was passed on to Cain’s children? Nope. Is there any indication as to what exactly the mark was? Was it some dot on his forehead? The account written by Moses found in Genesis and in the Book of Moses is not clear. Why would anyone jump to other conclusions other than what Moses writes? After all, Moses is our ONLY source of the Cain story?

    Furthermore, according to the Book of Abraham, Ham married a descendant of Cain, and had a daughter named Egypt. Apparently this is how the children of Cain survived the flood. Thus, children of Egypt would fall under the supposed curse. Now, where does anyone get the notion that blacks from Nigeria, or Zimbabwe or any other place south of Egypt are in any way related to Egyptians?

    Do you see, it is an erroneous belief not centered in reality, and not even really within the bounds of the Gospel found in the Bible. It contradicts numerous sections of the Bible, and thus is not accurate. Whereas the Levites being the only ones allowed the Aaronic Priesthood whilst the Law of Moses was in effect, is scriptural and unquestioned, and also not controversial.

    you throw the term around like liberal weaklings that want to silence discourse by name calling.

    Pot meet Kettle.

    I was never intimidated by those in the “great and spacious building that are pointing the finger of scorn.”

    Look in the mirror dude, you’ll find all sorts of scornful fingers pointing at you.

  36. Jeff Spector
    October 22, 2009 at 8:58 am

    16, Douglas,

    “Prejudice was and is wide spread and different groups have terrible trouble dealing with one another. Be that as it may, it doesn’t say anything about the specific issue, and context under discussion.”

    Well, I agree with this statement and while I think things are much better in some sense, we have a ways to go. I think what I was trying to say is that the other institutions were hypocritical in their finger-pointing toward BYU because they were equally as guilty of prejudice behavior toward all kinds of minorities, not just Blacks.

    The Church, as an institution was only as prejudiced as it’s theology allowed (No blacks could hold the Priesthood, but could be members). There was, in my opinion, no institutional racism (I hate the word because it is overused and meaningless). Clearly, there were and probably still are, members and leaders, for that matter, who were and are prejudiced against others. But, the Church didn’t have a “No Blacks allowed” policy as many other organizations and Churches did. These same organizations also had, “no anyone not exactly like us” policies.

    And, I also don’t believe the Church was dragged kicking and screaming as it was at least eight years until the ban was lifted. Not exactly a “blink of an eye.

  37. Derek
    October 22, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Given the number of members whom I’ve heard as late as the mid 1990′s talk about blacks as bearers of the Mark of Cain (a common protestant justification for slavery or racial discrimination in the 1800s), as pre-mortal fencesitters, or as to be avoided as marital partners for whites because of some warning by President Kimball to avoid mixing, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that “In an instant of a blink of an eye, the whole church changed its views on blacks in 1978.”

  38. brjones
    October 22, 2009 at 9:52 am

    #36 – I think this is a fair point. I would argue that there has been, and to some degree remains, an element of racism among the members of the church. But I think Jeff is right that the church in the mid to late 20th century, as an institution, was only as racist as it was bound to be by a doctrine that it inherited from previous administrations. That doesn’t mean they necessarily get a free pass, as you can argue from a secular standpoint that they could have lifted the ban at any time. But I do think it is fair to point out that the other overtures from the church at that time (again, as an institution) toward blacks were welcoming and inclusive. I don’t have a problem giving the leaders of that time the benefit of the doubt when they say they were deeply troubled and restless over the issue. Clearly that kind of atmosphere had to develop before the change could be made.

    In terms of ongoing racism among members of the church, I think it’s not hard to understand how those in the church, in places like Utah for example, who have virtually no exposure to racial diversity in the church, could have been and continue to be, to a degree, somewhat racist. Ironically, racism in the church in past generations, as Jeff S. has pointed out, was borne largely of mormon theology, while any remnants of racism in the modern mormon church stem from anything but. As an aside, my brother encountered an african american man on his mission in boston who left the church after the lift on the priesthood ban, because he believed the church had caved in to social pressure.

    SBC, I think you’ve missed the point, and it wasn’t even really close. First of all, I don’t remember anyone here calling themselves an intellectual. Second, I also don’t remember anyone calling god a racist, although to clear up any ambiguity, let me be the first. God is a racist, and I don’t think it’s even debatable. Look up the definition in the dictionary, and then read some of the bedtime stories from the old testament recounting the many things jehovah (read jesus) did to people based on nothing other than their race or the color of their skin. If you’d like to make the argument that it was righteous because god commanded it, as has been suggested, then I’m fine with that argument from a consistency standpoint, although I personally disagree. To the extent that this is an intelligent discussion, though (claims of intellectualism aside), your faux outrage is really pretty silly. If you want to disagree I’m sure everyone would love to hear your opinions, but to this point you’re the only one getting worked into a froth, and for some reason, to emphasize your indignation at perceived name-calling, you’re calling names. Third, the link suggested by some between the church’s treatment of blacks and its treatment of homosexuality really has to be read with the implication that those making the connection don’t believe that the ban on blacks was based on revelation or theology, but rather was the institutionalization of racist policies by racist people. From that perspective, your frustration about people not understanding the difference between the “right” to the priesthood and the right to marry or commit homosexual acts is meaningless. What we’re suggesting is that on a much broader scale, the church has a history of discrimination against minority groups, or groups with little or no representation in the traditional mormon heirarchy. What we’re further suggesting is that the lift on the priesthood ban did not really indicate a sea change in the church’s policies or its thinking, but was an isolated incident that was brought about largely in response to social stimuli. Finally what we’re suggesting is that the mindset that led to the ban on blacks in the first place, and the continuation of that policy into the modern church in the second place, remains among the leadership of the church, and is evidenced by subsequent policies such as women’s and gay rights. I don’t believe this argument is implicated in any way by your comment.

  39. Greg
    October 22, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Why is it that every discussion here at Mormon Matters ultimately becomes a discussion about homosexual issues? Can someone please start a web site called “Gay Mormon Matters”? Or, better yet, just change the name of this one. I’m convinced that if someone started a discussion about paper vs. plastic sacrament cups we would, somehow, start talking about how that’s relevant to gay rights.

  40. Cowboy
    October 22, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Good timing Greg, I was just thinking the same thing. I mean Cmon, if you can draw a correlation between the denied civil liberties and religious legitimacy of blacks prior to 1978, to the current denied civil liberties of homosexuals (whom the Church just a launched a massive campaign against), then you could probably find a correlation in about anything. It’s like if someone were to post a thread about the traditional family. I guarantee you that some idiot here on Gay Mormon Matters would find some way to contort the conversation into a discussion about gay rights as if it were relevant.

  41. brjones
    October 22, 2009 at 10:18 am

    #39 – Greg, are you kidding? This may be a valid complaint, but this post certainly isn’t the place for it. The post has to do with discrimination against minorities in the church and at BYU. While the original post might have confined itself to blacks in the ’60s and ’70s, it’s not remotely a stretch to relate that to the church’s dealings with homosexuals today. In fact, if one has any desire whatsoever to relate the discussion of this post to the church today, it is IMPOSSIBLE not to discuss the church’s dealings with homosexual issues.

    For what it’s worth, there are people here who feel the same way about polygamy. Somehow, whenever a thread turns into a discussion about polygamy they feel the need to lament how everything is about polygamy. That’s funny to me because I don’t remember a significant about polygamy in weeks. In response to the obvious exaggeration in your comment, I would direct you to the thread discussing Elder Holland’s conference talk, which went almost 300 comments, and I don’t believe contains a single mention of homosexuality. That said, this blog is a place for people to discuss issues that are important to them, and if that’s what people are talking about, it’s because that’s the issue that people want to talk about. If you’re not interested, then don’t read it. But please don’t minimize the interests and feelings of other people to whom this is important and topical. Frankly, there’s a reason these issues are discussed here, and it’s because they remain deeply emotional and personal issues for many people, and there aren’t a whole hell of a lot of forums within mormon culture for people to discuss such topics. Luckily this is one place we can do so, and the only thing we have to suffer is the occasional person whining about how they’re sick of reading about it. There’s a solution to that problem.

  42. Jeff Spector
    October 22, 2009 at 10:39 am

    “Why is it that every discussion here at Mormon Matters ultimately becomes a discussion about homosexual issues?’

    It’s the “Issue De Jour” and those who have embraced the issue apparently see something in almost every discussion that they wish to point out.

    It’s kind of natural when you feel strongly about something.

  43. brjones
    October 22, 2009 at 10:41 am

    #42 – Jeff and Greg, I agree that this is an issue that tends to find its way into many discussions, even those that are entirely unrelated. In this particular instance, though, I think it’s really a natural extension of the conversation contained in the original post.

  44. Cowboy
    October 22, 2009 at 11:08 am

    “It’s kind of natural when you feel strongly about something.”

    I agree with this, even though I am not personally as invested in the issue as a homosexual. I think what this tells you is that there is demand for the type of conversation about Mormonism that this site provides, which is not as accessible outside of the internet in most of the Mormon world.

  45. Douglas Hunter
    October 22, 2009 at 11:15 am

    #36- “Well, I agree with this statement and while I think things are much better in some sense, we have a ways to go. I think what I was trying to say is that the other institutions were hypocritical in their finger-pointing toward BYU because they were equally as guilty of prejudice behavior toward all kinds of minorities, not just Blacks.”

    o.k. got it.

    “The Church, as an institution was only as prejudiced as it’s theology allowed (No blacks could hold the Priesthood, but could be members).

    I wonder about this, the “one drop” rule as applied to members in South America, the strong discouragement against interracial marriage throughout the church. Statements from people such as BRM, the well known Delbert Stapley Letter, and many others suggest a significant amount of racism beyond the priesthood ban. Was it organized in an institutional way? It can be hard to judge, from a historical distance but there is evidence of some elements of institutional racism.

    “But, the Church didn’t have a “No Blacks allowed” policy as many other organizations and Churches did. These same organizations also had, “no anyone not exactly like us” policies.”

    O.K. but this does not diminish our concern with what happened in our organization, how it happened, when it happened, and why it happened. Also there are many other ways other than official policy that institutions shape their membership.

    I think what is really going on is that as we gain more historical perspective / distance it becomes harder and harder for younger members and newer members to rationalize the idea that God played any role in the Church’s policy or the actions and statements of our leaders from the civil rights era. The far more simple and realistic explanation is that the church was hugely influenced by a particular ideological perspective that lead to the situation we saw in the 1960′s and 70′s and it took a great deal of work for that influence to wain on the issue of race.

  46. Greg
    October 22, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    By turning this into a discussion about “gay rights” we dilute what could otherwise be a deeper and more meaningful discussion about racial issues and the church. The gay rights struggle would seem far more legitimate if it didn’t always lean on the race issue in search of sympathy. I’m not so sure that African Americans appreciate the connection either.

    And, here’s an interesting and timely article about Wyoming’s “Black 14.” No mention of gay rights in this one…

    http://www.mormontimes.com/people_news/sports/?id=11320&preview=1

  47. brjones
    October 22, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Greg, I think you’re really reaching here. I just went back and read every comment in this thread, and the overwhelming majority of the content is addressing the race issue. I don’t see that the discussion has been turned into one about “gay rights” at all. Furthermore, I think if you view the original post as being confined specifically to race relations in the church, and refuse to view it in the context of a broader perspective, what’s the point? So what if the church had perfect relations with racial minorities now, but it continued to persist in policies and procedures very similar to those that produced the priesthood ban, just targeted toward other groups? Does it make sense to just keep discussing the race issue and ignoring the other related issues? It seems to me that you’re stripping away the real import of even having the conversation if you do that. This is not just about race. It’s about the treatment of minorities and even moreso about the church’s institutional posture toward them. I agree that we shouldn’t stray too far from the author’s point, but I really don’t see that that’s happened.

    Jeff B., I would be interested to know your thoughts on this issue.

  48. Mike S
    October 22, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    I was thinking about this last night.

    There are certainly examples of other “all-black” Churches (ie. Southern Baptist, etc.) in the earlier time periods, and there are also ones that persist that way today. In my mind, there is a very large difference between this, however. The members of a particular congregation tend to group on a sociological basis. People who have similar beliefs “group together”. In the segregated south, it was only natural, therefore, that there would be majority black churches and majority white churches. However, it doesn’t seem that any of these churches at their fundamental core had a doctrinal basis for excluding blacks (ie. the Catholics or Baptists or anyone else teaching that a certain race should be excluded). This is a big difference. When we had leaders at the highest level explaining that it was God’s will that blacks were excluded from that religion, that is completely different than a particular congregation being more black or more white.

  49. Douglas Hunter
    October 22, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    #46- Nothing is preventing a “deeper and more meaningful discussion about racial issues in the church.” Bring it on!

    But I do find your way of characterizing gay rights as leaning, and looking for sympathy in the way you do, to be strange and incorrect. When those of us who favor gay rights seek to increase empathy for the plight of our gay and lesbian friends and family members, we do so by telling their stories, by telling of their struggles, of their needs, of their triumphs and of the devastating impact of prejudice in their lives. There is no need to “lean” on anyone else’s suffering or story to do this.

    Further, plenty African American’s do appreciate the connection, look at the stand that Eric Lee is taking as well as Art Cribs, these black, straight, men are religious leaders who see the struggle for gay rights as part of their religious missions.

  50. Jeff Breinholt
    October 22, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    BrJones,
    I was not thinking about gay rights when I wrote this post, but I am not disappointed that a bunch of people have jumped in with comparisons. (I myself went on a riff in response to some of the comments about gay rights). As I have written elsewhere, I believe that neither the black-priesthood ban nor its correction were inspired by God. I think that same thing about the Church’s position on gay marriage – that it’s good, old-fashioned power-maintenance: if gay marriage can be sanctified by the state, suddenly gay sex between married people is not punishable and the Church loses part of its excommunication/disfellowshipping authority. This authority, in my opinion, is why Church leaders enjoy such an unhealthy celebrity-like status in Utah – they have the ability to separate normal people from what they love. Once this diminishes, the kings will have fewer clothers, so to speak. J.

  51. Cowboy
    October 22, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    “By turning this into a discussion about “gay rights” we dilute what could otherwise be a deeper and more meaningful discussion about racial issues and the church.”

    I would now like to turn the time over to our concluding speaker, Greg, who will share a few thoughts with us on the deeper and more meaningful issues of race and the Church. Greg, the time is now yours.

  52. Greg
    October 22, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Sorry. Not a tempting offer. It’s also ironic that I’ve been met with the “if you don’t like it, you should just leave” idea.

  53. brjones
    October 22, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    #52 – Who has said that? If you’re going to continue to put words in people’s mouths, Greg, I’m going to ask you to substantiate them.

  54. Cowboy
    October 22, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Not only were you not invited to leave, by I invited you to speak.

  55. Greg
    October 22, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    “That said, this blog is a place for people to discuss issues that are important to them, and if that’s what people are talking about, it’s because that’s the issue that people want to talk about. If you’re not interested, then don’t read it.”

    Same idea.

  56. brjones
    October 22, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Greg, in no way am I suggesting you leave. I have no authority on this site and I wouldn’t want you to leave even if I did. I enjoy discussing things with people who disagree with me. But if people are not interested in the subject matter being discussed, why would they continue to read? It’s like turning on a television program and then complaining about the content, but refusing to change the channel. Besides, there are numerous people in this thread who have not gotten into the discussion of homosexuality. If you don’t want to discuss it then you shouldn’t, but I don’t think you should tell others what they should or shouldn’t be discussing, either.

  57. sunnofabcrich
    October 22, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    Hey, just wondering if someone could tell me how homosexuality or gay marriage figures into the plan of salvation? Thanks…

  58. brjones
    October 22, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    It doesn’t, in my opinion.

  59. sunnofabcrich
    October 22, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    nor in mine, makes me wonder why anyone who is a mormon would support legitamizing homosexuality.

  60. AndrewJDavis
    October 22, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    #59: It is possible to support the marriage for homosexuals, and the basic rights that are legally offered to married folk (visitation, inheritance, insurance, adoption, etc.), even if I feel what is being done (sexually) within the relationship is not right. I happen to feel that the major point in the plan of salvation is our agency to choose. Limiting the options through legislation is not always a good idea.

  61. Holden Caulfield
    October 23, 2009 at 8:42 am

    “nor in mine, makes me wonder why anyone who is a mormon would support legitamizing homosexuality.”

    There are people who live in the United States who are not Mormon, who are not Christian. We do not live in a theocracy. I don’t believe the conjured fairy tales about the imagined indoctrination that will happen in schools, etc. etc. etc.

    Whether church leaders believe it or not gays are people who deserve the right to pursue their happiness. That is my polite, short answer to #59.

  62. Awesome Dave
    October 23, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Greg, the funny thing is, I think you have the most comments about homsexuality in this post now.

  63. October 23, 2009 at 9:29 am

    Question about blacks in the church before 1978… Were they allowed into the temple? Is it necessary for men to hold the priesthood to receive their endowment?

    I read a comment somewhere that blacks were kept out of the temple and therefore “denied Exaltation.” I had never thought of it that way before… If they couldn’t go to the temple, they would essentially be forever barred from entering God’s presence based on their race. I find that idea far more horrifying than not being able to hold administrative positions in the church. Was that truly how it was?

  64. Cowboy
    October 23, 2009 at 9:58 am

    #63 -

    I am certainly no authority on this matter, but for what it is worth this matter was historically ambiguous. There are GA quotes from early Church periods that limit the progression oppurtunities of blacks to servitude in the “higher” glories. Conversely, and particularly in the 1900′s the rhetoric theologically drifted from ultimately denying the highest oppurtunities of exaltation to blacks, to just precluding them from the Priesthood, including the Temple, until after the Millenium. A great deal of that line of reasoning came from Bruce R. McConkie, through Mormon Doctrine. Since the Joseph Smith era and before 1978 there were no blacks ordained to the Priesthood, that I am aware of, and therefore none were admitted to the temple. The thinking was that if they were faithful in their limited mortal capacities, they could ultimately achieve exaltation. This is a matter which was far from unanimous.

  65. Holden Caulfield
    October 23, 2009 at 11:19 am

    “Question about blacks in the church before 1978… Were they allowed into the temple? Is it necessary for men to hold the priesthood to receive their endowment?”

    Men need to hold the Melchezidek priesthood to receive their endowment. Males need to hold the Aaronic priesthood to be baptized for the dead.

    I don’t know of historical examples of blacks entering the temple. One black woman,Jane Elizabeth Manning James, was a household servant of Joseph Smith. She loved the Smiths and wanted to be sealed to the them. Many years later (1894), she was told she would be sealed to Joseph Smith and his family. Not allowing her entrance to the temple, church leaders had arranged for a white woman (Bathsheba W. Smith) to stand in for her as a proxy. She was thinking she would be sealed to them as a child. She was ingloriously sealed to them as “servitor”, a fancy name for a servant.

    I don’t of the formal policy throughout the years.

  66. Thomas
    October 23, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    “Whether church leaders believe it or not gays are people who deserve the right to pursue their happiness.”

    True. And therefore sodomy laws, or other restrictions on consensual sexual acts between adults, are illegitimate in a free republic.

    However, it does not follow that having the freedom to pursue happiness as one chooses, equates to a right that government formalize and actively assist you in that pursuit.

    You have the inalienable right to be left alone. Beyond that, it’s all a matter of legislative grace.

  67. MoHoHawaii
    October 23, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Re #63– Blacks were not allowed to receive endowments or be married in the temple prior to 1978. For example, a black woman who married a white man could not be sealed to him or receive her endowment.

    I think the focus on blacks and the priesthood is a bit of whitewash. The prohibition was more than that. (But of course, the LDS practice of using the word “people” to mean “male people” by default is another subject entirely.)

  68. October 23, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Sports Illustrated did a series on “The Black Athlete” in 1968. It’s very illuminating concerning what the overall issues were back then.

  69. Jeff Breinholt
    October 23, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    The impetus for the original post was a documentary film project I undertook after I read those cases on the LDS black-priesthood issue. The project had a script but never got off the ground. However, I did stumble on a documentary by a University of Wyoming film professor, entitled “The Wyoming 14.”. Alas, I have never been able to find it, despite my best efforts. If anyone has a lead on it, please let me know.

  70. Jeff Breinholt
    October 23, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    If anyone has a lead on a documentary entitled “The Wyoming 14,” please let me know.

  71. Awesome Dave
    October 23, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    you sure it’s not this movie?

    Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons

    http://www.kued.org/?area=pressReleases&action=details&id=NDI3

  72. Jeff Spector
    October 23, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    I think that the Blacks and the priesthood issue was not very well known in the church prior to the civil rights movement. Given the fact that Apostle David O. McKay didn’t even know about the ban confirms that.

    MoHO,

    “The prohibition was more than that.”

    Like what?

  73. MoHoHawaii
    October 23, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    Re #72,

    Like prohibiting worthy black women from being sealed to the priesthood-holding (i.e. white) husbands. Like the prohibition against sealing adopted black children to their (white) parents. Like prohibiting black women from holding offices such as Relief Society President.

    My point is simply that the priesthood ban was just one part of a larger set of prohibitions.

  74. Dan
    October 24, 2009 at 7:50 am

    I asked a question earlier based on the issue of how quickly the church as an institution changed on the issue of blacks. It was a sincere question. I’m going to ask again, knowing that I am generally not liked and generally ignored, and thus not answered. What evidence is there that the church had any motion toward better relations with blacks before 1978? I ask this because I don’t know the answer to it, and it seems there are people here who do. Thank you.

  75. Cowboy
    October 24, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Dan:

    A quick response. I don’t know that there was any attempt “toward better relations with blacks before 1978″, as you put it, but there was a difference of opinion on the policy from some of the Church’s more liberal leaning leaders. Hugh B. Brown, seems to be one that comes to mind, who was “challenging” the Church’s policy, including the very origin of the pseudo doctrine. That may be a good starting place for you. I am also aware of some recorded conversation with LeGrand Richards about a problematic issue surrounding a South American temple that had been just built, not first realizing that a substantial number of the LDS members in the nation had black ancestry. The problem was two-fold. First, there sat a multi-million dollar temple that could not serve a large sum of the membership to whom it had been promised. Second, even if they were willing to segregate those with black ancestry, there really was no way to actually determine who would qualify. That also stemmed down to the Stake and Ward organization, where they may have had Stake or Ward leaders serving in Priesthood positions, who were supposed to be banned from those rights.

    Anyway, I don’t claim to be an expert here, but this should give you enough to begin a search and become an expert yourself. For what it is worth, I’m sorry you feel unliked or ignored.

  76. Douglas Hunter
    October 24, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    #71- see my comment #25, Its not the same movie that Jeff is talking about.

    The Wyoming PBS station does have a doc on their website about the Wyoming 14 called “The Black 14″ but it does not go into who made the film.

    #74- your question is hard to answer because its not really clear what you are asking. As I am learning more about how the church handles issues of civil rights and inclusion I have to say that, as of now, I’m not really aware of institutional effort on the part of the church to have better relations with specific groups. I think this is often the case because different groups want the church to admit to some sore of wrong doing or apologize for past mistakes. For example there is the current Mormon Apology petition.

    On the other hand it does appear that there were many people in the 19060′s and 1970′s who felt that the church should examine its policy towards Black saints and civil rights. The well known Delbert Stapeley letter was penned to George Romney For the reason that Romney was “too liberal” on the issue of civil rights. If I recall correctly Eugene England also got into hot water on this issue penning a letter to general authorities stating that he felt it worked counter to the gospel. Ack, as I type this I realize that it might have been Lowell Benion who wrote such a letter. Anyway, There were also folks involved with Dialogue who took their concerns about the priesthood ban to friends in the quorum of the 12. Anyway the point is there was dialogue on the issue on the highest levels of the church for years prior to 1978. Does this have anything to do with what you were asking? If not sorry.

  77. Dan
    October 25, 2009 at 7:49 am

    Cowboy,

    Thanks for your answer. I guess I was looking for something akin to what President Gordon B Hinckley said in April 2006:

    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?

    Did Hugh B Brown ever say anything like that before 1978?

    Douglas,

    Thank you for your answer too. The reason I ask this is because as we seem to be going back and finding answers and understanding (for example Ardis’ Keepapitchinin blog), my impression from my understanding, is that as a church pre-1978 belief about the role of blacks within the church, and of course in society in general, was that of an inferior race, and that the revelation of 1978 made an immediate change upon the church. I mean, I guess because of the way the church is designed with one prophet speaking for the church (akin to a king), anyone under him speaking contrary to his dictates would be under penalty. Could any Apostle (heck could Elder Hinckley) have said what President Hinckley said in April 2006 back in say April 1968?

  78. Cowboy
    October 25, 2009 at 10:07 am

    “Could any Apostle (heck could Elder Hinckley) have said what President Hinckley said in April 2006 back in say April 1968?”

    I think I see your point, and would agree with you, Institutionally when the ban was removed it was sort of an about-face. Internally, and a little less public there was some division between Church leaders, and as Douglas Hunter points out, Mormon intellectuals. However, as I have said, I am not aware of any pre-1978 Mormon outreach to the black communities, I think that there was some softening of the “general” perspective on the nature and destiny of the Black communities, from say a John Taylor point of view where blacks were here to allow Satan representation on the earth, to the McConkie take that blacks represent the less valiant population of the pre-existence, but who ultimately can be saved in the highest degrees of glory. I think just prior to 1978, Bruce R. McConkie’s position on blacks is the view that most Church members espoused.

  79. Jeff Spector
    October 25, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Well, here is an exerpt from Answers to Gospel Questions, vol. 4 Joseph Fielding Smith on the “Negro” question:

    Question: “Clare Boothe Luce in her ‘Without Portfolio’ column in the June issue of McCall’s Magazine writes an answer to the question: ‘Do you think George Romney has a chance of getting the Republican nomination for the presidency in 1964?’ And I quote: ‘Mr. Romney is a Mormon. It seems that the Mormon Church teaches that the Negroes have inferior souls. If this is so, a Mormon might have some difficulty in carrying the Negro vote in Michigan. But Mr. Romney’s own views are known to differ in this respect from those of his church, just as President Kennedy’s views on the constitutionality of aid to parochial schools differ from those of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church.’ ”

    Answer: “….The Latter-day Saints, so commonly called “Mormons,” have no animosity towards the Negro. Neither have they described him as belonging to an “inferior race.” There are Negroes in the Church who are respected and honored for their integrity and faithful devotion. The door into the Church is open to all.”

    “Therefore if a Negro joins the Church through the waters of baptism and is confirmed by the laying on of hands and then he remains faithful and true to the teachings of the Church and in keeping the commandments the Lord has given, he will come forth in the first resurrection and will enter the celestial kingdom of God.”

    Now, I realize that there were some, maybe even many, that held differing views, but it is interesting that JFS, a hardliner if there ever was one, made these statements which were published in the Improvement Era as well as these volumes..

  80. Dan
    October 25, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    Jeff,

    Thanks for that quote. It’s a deceptive quote though, because JFS refuses to mention that black males cannot receive the priesthood and the reason behind that belief, which is indeed based on the perception that blacks are an inferior race. So the attempted answer to this question completely avoids the very issue that made Mormons be perceived as racists.

  81. Jeff Spector
    October 26, 2009 at 5:58 am

    Dan,

    “that black males cannot receive the priesthood and the reason behind that belief, which is indeed based on the perception that blacks are an inferior race.”

    I am not sure I want to re-litigate this whole thing, but the way I see it was:

    1. There was the ban, clearly endorsed from the time of Brigham Young forward
    2. Then there were the theories and explanation for it afterwards.

    That most definitely included the “inferior race” idea which was a commonly held belief among so-called leading authorities in anthropology. In fact, a number of Church leaders quoted those authorities as justification. I went through Gospelink and found a number of them.

    I thought the JFS piece the most “liberal” of all of them. And he does say that Blacks will inherit the celestial kingdom and arise in the first resurrection, if they are faithful. He would say the same about us. I take that statement at face value and do not read anything behind it. Just simply because I wouldn’t accept political correctness from JFS. Clearly, a number of his brethren were not afraid to share their views on the subject.

    BTW, I did excerpt it somewhat.

  82. Dan
    October 26, 2009 at 7:54 am

    What I’m trying to say Jeff is that I believe JFS knew the issue at the heart of the question wasn’t whether or not blacks would be saved, but why the Mormon church at the time discriminated against blacks regarding the priesthood. The answer, saying that blacks are saved just like the rest of us, totally ignores the whole reason behind the question, behind the belief among the rest of the American population that the church had a racial bias against blacks.

    In any case, I didn’t really want to argue the point much. I appreciate that you offered an example of church leadership before 1978 trying to show movement toward removing that bias.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *