FUNDAMENTALISTS, BLACKS AND THE PRIESTHOOD
One religious topic which has recently become very popular among fundamentalists involves their complete rejection of President Kimball's 1978 revelation allowing blacks to hold the priesthood. Prior to 1978, Church policy did not allow blacks to hold the priesthood, which also precluded their access to temples and temple ordinances. In 1978, President Kimball received a revelation which changed this policy and allowed all men, regardless of race or color, to receive priesthood ordinations.(1) This issue continues to be discussed among fundamentalists and deserves consideration here.
Concerning blacks and the priesthood, fundamentalists
God gave a revelation to Joseph Smith denying blacks
the priesthood. Church leaders understood and followed it until when, in
1978, uninspired men (President Kimball and the Council of the Twelve Apostles),
using their own wisdom, changed the commandment. Giving Blacks the priesthood
has resulted in the loss of the priesthood, defilement of the temples and
His divine displeasure.(2)
We will examine different aspects of this assertion in
Both fundamentalist(3) and LDS writers(4) have suggested the Joseph Smith was the author of the policy that blacks could not hold the priesthood. However, there are only two men who claimed to have been personally taught such by the Prophet. They were Zebedee Coltrin and Abraham Smoot. Coltrin's testimony has been questioned because he claimed to have been taught that blacks could not hold the priesthood in 1834, but records show that it was Coltrin who ordained Elijah Abel, a Negro, to the office of Seventy in 1836.(5) Abraham Smoot's claims were made many years after the fact and may have been subject to his own racial bias (he was a slave holder) or due to an unjustified generalization of directives to be used only among missionaries teaching slaves in the South. It appears significant that neither Brigham Young, John Taylor nor any other of the close associates of Joseph Smith attributed the doctrine to him.
The issue of Elijah Abel, a Negri, mentioned above is especially significant since it appears clear that Joseph Smith was aware of his 1836 ordination to the priesthood and yet did nothing to interfere with his office or the exercise of his authority. Abel's activities were discussed in a leadership meeting in June 1839, which was attended by Joseph Smith and other leading Mormons.(6) Likewise, Brother Abel lived in the Prophet's home in Nauvoo for a time and claimed that Joseph Smith told him he was entitled to the priesthood. His patriarchal blessing verified that he was ordained an elder in 1836.(7) Records show that other blacks, such as Walker Lewis, were ordained to the priesthood during the 1830s.(8)
Since priesthood is required for any man to attend the
ordinances of the temple, it is significant that the Prophet taught that
people of "every color" would flock to Nauvoo, Illinois to worship in the
temple being constructed there. Joseph stated:
If the work rolls forth with the
same rapidity it has heretofore done, we may soon expect to see flocking
to this place, people from every land and from every nation; the polished
European, the degraded Hottentot, and the shivering Laplander; persons
of all languages, and of every tongue, and of every color; who shall
with us worship the Lord of Hosts in His holy temple and offer up their
orisons in His sanctuary. (HC 4:213.)
Other evidence could be presented to show that the policy
of withholding the priesthood from Negroes was not fully implemented during
the 1830s.(9) It should be obvious that
the Prophet Joseph Smith was leading the Church according to the understanding
the Lord had revealed to him up to that point. Church members followed
the Prophet regarding these things.
Fundamentalists may believe that once the policy of withholding
priesthood from blacks was implemented, which occurred in the 1840s-1850s,
most questions concerning the policy were answered. This is incorrect.
Throughout the ensuing decades, various scriptures and ideas have been
promoted to explain one aspect or another, though no formal revelations
concerning it have been presented to the Saints by the Lord's Anointed.
A review of related scriptural teachings helps us to understand some of
the questions that have surrounded this topic.
Three Separate Cursings (See Diagram.)
Part of the confusion sometimes associated with this topic
may be related to the fact that on three occasions, the Lord sent curses
down upon His children.
1. Cain was cursed for killing Abel and the Lord "set
a mark" upon him:
And Cain went into the field, and Cain talked with Abel, his brother. And it came to pass that while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him.
And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands.
And the Lord said unto Cain: Where is Abel, thy brother? And he said: I know not. Am I my brother's keeper?
And the Lord said: What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood cries unto me from the ground.
And now thou shalt be cursed from the earth which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand.
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.
And Cain said unto the Lord: Satan tempted me because of my brother's flocks. And I was wroth also; for his offering thou didst accept and not mine; my punishment is greater than I can bear.
Behold thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the Lord, 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 he that findeth me will slay me, because of mine iniquities, for these things are not hid from the Lord.
And I the Lord said unto him: Whosoever slayeth thee, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And I the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.
And Cain was shut out from the presence
of the Lord, and with his wife and many of his brethren dwelt in the land
of Nod, on the east of Eden. (Moses 5:32-41; emphasis added.)
The exact nature of the curse and the "mark" are not specified
in the scriptures. However, we note that "the seed of Cain were black"
2. On a separate occasion, pre-flood "Canaanites" were
cursed with black skin. Enoch records:
And again the Lord said unto me: Look; and I looked towards the north, and I beheld the people of Canaan, which dwelt in tents.
And the Lord said unto me: Prophesy; and I prophesied, saying: Behold the people of Canaan, which are numerous, shall go forth in battle array against the people of Shum, and shall slay them that they shall utterly be destroyed; and the people of Canaan shall divide themselves in the land, and the land shall be barren and unfruitful, and none other people shall dwell there but the people of Canaan;
For behold, the Lord shall curse
the land with much heat, and the barrenness thereof shall go forth
forever; and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan,
that they were despised among all people. (Moses 7:6-8; bold added.)
Additional significance to this second "curse" is found
as we observe that Cain's seed were black (Moses 7:22) and yet it appears
that the pre-flood "Canaanites" (those mentioned above) were not black
until after the curse mentioned in the scripture above was placed. (See
3. After the flood, Canaan, grandson of Noah (through
Ham), was cursed to be a "servant of servants":
And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness.
And Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
And he said, Blessed be the Lord
God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. (Genesis 9:22-26;
bold added. See also HC 2:438.)
Negroes today are assumed to descend from Cain through Canaan (son of Ham) and therefore to partake of the first and the third curses listed above. The scriptures, however, do not justify this. The Holy Writ only associates Blacks with the second curse which is a lineage through the pre-flood "Canaanites" (via Egyptus) with their curse of black skin. See diagram 9-1.
Since African Blacks served as slaves in earlier days,
it was not uncommon to believe that they were descendants of Canaan, son
of Ham, since his seed were to be "servants." However, research suggests
strongly that African Blacks are not of Canaan's (son of Ham) lineage.
Cain, Pre-flood "Canaanites" and Post-flood "Canaanites"
( See diagram above.)
Any attempt to understand scriptural teachings on this topic will quickly encounter a problem with names and name spellings.(11) The diagram shows that Cain was cursed with black skin and dwelt in the land of Nod (Genesis 4:16; Moses 5:41) which was "east of Eden." The scriptures do not give us any background of a second and distinct group called the pre-flood "Canaanites." We are not told if their name was derived from Cain, or someone named Canaan (or Cainan) or from a land called Canaan. We note that there is nothing in the scriptures to associate the pre-flood "Canaanites" (who appear to have been white before the Lord cursed them) with Cain (whose seed was black - Moses 7:22). This could be important because Egyptus, the wife of Ham, is listed as being a "partaker of the blood of the Canaanites" (Abraham 1:21) but not as a descendant of Cain. It is generally thought that Egyptus preserved the curse of Cain through the flood, but the scriptures only specify that she preserved the curse of the pre-flood "Canaanites."
The picture becomes even more complicated as we observe
that there is also no reason to associate the pre-flood "Canaanites" with
post-flood "Canaanites." The two groups are entirely distinct. Post-flood
"Canaanites" derive their name from Noah's grandson Canaan. (Of course
he should not be confused with Adam's great-grandson Cainan.) [Perhaps
another look at the diagram would help(!)]
Egyptus (wife of Ham), Egyptus (daughter of Ham) and
Pharaoh (See Diagram.)
As mentioned above, Egyptus, wife of Ham, preserved the
curse of the pre-flood Canaanites through the flood. The book of Abraham
records the following:
Now this king of Egypt was a descendant from the loins of Ham, and was a partaker of the blood of the Canaanites by birth.
From this descent sprang all the Egyptians, and thus the blood of the Canaanites was preserved in the land.
The land of Egypt being first discovered by a woman, who was the daughter of Ham, and the daughter of Egyptus, which in the Chaldean signifies Egypt, which signifies that which is forbidden;
When this woman discovered the land it was under water, who afterward settled her sons in it; and thus, from Ham, sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land.
Now the first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was patriarchal.
Pharaoh, being a righteous man,
established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his
days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers
in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even
in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with
the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed
him as pertaining to the Priesthood. (Abraham 1:21-26.)
These verses give us a brief history of Egypt and its first Pharaoh. As a "partaker of the blood of the Canaanites," pharaoh was cursed "as pertaining to the Priesthood."(12) This is the only scriptural reference to anyone (including Cain) being cursed regarding the priesthood. Scriptural accounts tell us Cain was cursed (with a "mark"), but they do not indicate that his curse also included an inability to hold the priesthood.
The issue of skin color of Egyptus I (wife of Ham), Egyptus II (daughter of Ham) and Pharaoh is also interesting because we learn from other scriptures that the daughters of Noah's sons, apparently including Ham, were "fair" (Moses 8:14). We also readily note that the Pharaoh drawn in facsimile #3 is plainly white in contrast to the black servant also portrayed.
An additional question concerns Ham's godly status discussed
in Moses 8 verses 13 and 27:
And Noah and his sons hearkened unto the Lord, and gave heed, and they were called the sons of God.
And thus Noah found grace in the
eyes of the Lord; for Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generation;
and he walked with God, as did also his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
It is very difficult to understand why Ham, who was called
a "son of God" and actually "walked with God," should subsequently marry
Egyptus and bring cursings upon him and his seed. It seems like a part
of the story has yet to be revealed.
African Blacks, Post-flood "Canaanites" and the Seed
of Cush (See Diagram.)
Some fundamentalists have referred to African blacks as
"Canaanites."(13) As mentioned above, this
may be due to a perceived association between the curse of servitude placed
upon Canaan (son of Ham) and black slavery. Unfortunately, this faulty
attitude was common in the 19th century. Notwithstanding, research shows
convincingly that African blacks are descendants of Cush, Canaan's brother.
The writers in the New Bible Dictionary(14)
Despite a long tradition of perverted
exegesis in some quarters, there is nothing to connect the curse of Ham
(Gen. 9:25) with a permanent divinely instituted malediction on the Negroid
peoples; it is explicitly applied to the Canaanites. (Page 18.)
The Bible Dictionary accompanying the L.D.S. Scriptures also identifies the descendants of Cush as being "dark skinned" (page 651). They settled areas of Ethiopia and Africa. The descendants of Canaan (post-flood "Canaanites") actually gave rise to the fair-skinned Phoenicians who inhabited the eastern Mediterranean coast.(15)
Respecting the policy of withholding the priesthood from
blacks, it appears that many answers are yet to be revealed. Many questions
persist. As we look to counsel given by the Lord's anointed since Joseph
Smith, we find a variety of ideas, but no new revelation to complement
the scriptural citations discussed above. Concerning the history of blacks
and the priesthood, and our Church leaders, Hugh Nibley has recorded:
It is an interesting chapter in
the history of thought, showing how the leaders of the Church have from
time to time come up with various explanations for limitations placed on
the activity of the Negro in the Church. To engage in such mental exercises
has been not only their prerogative but their duty.(16)
One example of this is found as we review some of the
teachings from Brigham Young concerning when the curse would be removed.
President Young taught:
[T]he 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...(17)
The Negro cannot hold one particle
of government. But the day will come when all the seed of Cain will be
redeemed and have all the blessings we have now and a great deal more.
But the seed of Abel will be ahead of the seed of Cain to all eternity.(18)
The issue may seem clear until we compare the teachings
of John Taylor concerning the man Abel where he states that Abel had no
One peculiar phase of false doctrine
with regard to the atonement had grown strong in the days of this Patriarch.
It was "that the blood of a righteous Abel was shed for sins." This was
a very natural mental outgrowth among people who believed in the consequences
of the fall of Adam and had been taught the necessity of a redeemer. It
was a very easy thing to fall into the error that as Adam had transgressed,
so his immediate son atoned by his blood for his father's act. And in the
spread of this incorrect idea of Abel's atonement amongst the early peoples,
may be found the origin of the many diversified legends of a sacrificed
redeemer. This theory was taught at a day so early in the world's history,
that it spread with the migrating races in every direction, so that traces
of it can be found from Hindustan to Spain, from the Baltic to Ethiopia.
Of course, every people in their own language had their peculiar name for
this savior, and each race claimed him as theirs, as Abel certainly
belonged as much to one as the other, having no posterity; and by
degrees they wove many fanciful and mythical legends round his life and
death, varying according to the tastes, imaginative power and environment
of the different races. This, to a very great extent, explains that enigma
to Christians, who believe that Gospel truths were first taught by Jesus
when in the flesh, how the knowledge of a principle of the atonement and
the tradition of a Savior was so wide spread throughout the world before
His actual coming.(19)
Thus, we are left with additional questions which the Lord has yet to answer.
As with Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and John Taylor,
Church leaders in their times have led the Latter-day Saints according
to the light and knowledge the Lord revealed, line upon line, to His Church
up to that time. Where the Lord had not yet declared all of the particulars,
priesthood leaders may have engaged in "mental exercises" (as Hugh Nibley
has suggested) to lend explanation. None of our leaders claimed to understand
all the details of the policy and differing opinions have existed. These
differences did not impede the work of the Lord, but illustrate the importance
of following the living oracles and waiting patiently upon the Lord.
Fundamentalists universally claim that President Kimball
was not authorized to issue Official Declaration -- 2 which allows
all men, regardless of color or lineage, to receive the priesthood. One
author has written:
The "Black Manifesto" is the same as the 1890 Manifesto, being a political ruse to keep the government off the back of the Church...
Most Latter-day Saints today have no idea that it was pressure from government sources, not the Lord, that motivated the policy move on the part of the Church...
We do not believe there is a "revelation"
from God reversing his position. We do believe that men think they know
better than God when the heat is on. (The Modern Mormon Dilemma,
Ogden Kraut, a prolific fundamentalist writer has published:
On Friday, June 9, 1978, the First
Presidency of the Church released a statement to the press that the Lord
had made known His will by revelation that the Priesthood could be given
to all people without regard for race or color. This was contradictory
to statements made by previous Church presidents. And where was the revelation?
No one has seen it. Revelations of a personal nature ought to be kept secret,
but revelations for Church membership should be made available to them,
published, and added to the canon of scripture. (The Fundamentalist
Mormon, p. 19.)
Fundamentalists are generally hopeful that the Lord did
not reveal His will to the First Presidency and the Quorum of the
Twelve on June 1, 1978. Nonetheless, many of the those involved on that
sacred occasion have left a record of what occurred. President Kimball
Day after day I went alone and with great solemnity and seriousness in the upper rooms of the temple, and there I offered my soul and offered my efforts to go forward with the program. I wanted to do what he wanted. I talked about it to him and said, "Lord, I want only what is right. We are not making any plans to be spectacularly moving. We want only the thing that thou dost want, and we want it when you want it and not until."
We met with the Council of the Twelve Apostles, time after time, in the holy room where there is a picture of the Savior in many different moods and also pictures of all the Presidents of the Church. Finally we had the feeling and the impression from the Lord, who made it very clear to us, that this was the thing to do to make the gospel universal to all worthy people. (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 451.)
On another occasion, President Kimball gave additional
details. He called a special meeting for the members of the Council of
the Twelve. The meeting was on a day when the Twelve regularly met in the
temple. President Kimball asked them to remain there a little longer.(20)
We considered this very seriously and thoughtfully and prayerfully. Then I asked the Twelve not to go home when the time came -- that is, after our first meeting.
I said, "Now would you be willing to remain in the temple with us?" And they were. I offered the final prayer and I told the Lord if it wasn't right, if He didn't want this change to come in the Church, that I would be true to it all the rest of my life, and I'd fight the world against it if that's what He wanted.
We had this special prayer circle, then I knew that the time had come...
But this revelation and assurance
came to me so clearly that there was no question about it. This matter
had been on my mind all these years. (Church News, January 6, 1979,
President Hinckley, second counselor in the First Presidency
at that time recalled:
On this occasion [June 1, 1978] President Kimball raised the question before his Brethren -- his Counselors and the Apostles. Following this discussion we joined in prayer in the most sacred of circumstances. President Kimball himself was voice in that prayer. I do not recall the exact words that he spoke. But I do recall my own feelings and the nature of the expressions of my Brethren. There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room. For me, it felt as if a conduit opened between the heavenly throne and the kneeling, pleading prophet of God who was joined by his Brethren. The Spirit of God was there. And by the power of the Holy Ghost there came to that prophet an assurance that the thing for which he prayed was right, that the time had come, and that now the wondrous blessings of the priesthood should be extended to worthy men everywhere regardless of lineage.
Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing.
It was a quiet and sublime occasion.
There was not the sound "as of a rushing mighty wind," there were not "cloven tongues like as of fire (Acts 2:2-3) as there had been on the Day of Pentecost. But there was a Pentecostal spirit, for the Holy Ghost was there.
No voice audible to our physical ears was heard. But the voice of the Spirit whispered with certainty into our minds and our very souls.
It was for us, at least for me personally, as I imagine it was with Enos, who said concerning his remarkable experience, "And while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind." (Enos 1:10.)
So it was on that memorable June 1, 1978. We left that meeting subdued and reverent and joyful. Not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that. Nor has the Church been quite the same.
All of us knew that the time had come for a change and that the decision had come from the heavens. The answer was clear. There was perfect unity among us in our experience and in our understanding.
We met the following Thursday when
the Presidency presented the Twelve their letter of announcement. (Ensign,
October, 1988, p. 68. See also March, 1993, p. 6.)
President Ezra Taft Benson, then serving as President
of the Quorum of the Twelve recorded the following in his journal concerning
the events of that day:
Following the prayer, we experienced
the sweetest spirit of unity and conviction that I have ever experienced....
We took each other in our arms, we were so impressed with the sweet spirit
that was in evidence. our bosoms burned with the righteousness of the decision
we had made. Thank God for the inspired leadership and the great and enduring
principle of revelation. What a blessing it is to be associated with this,
the greatest work in all the world. May God grant that I... may measure
up to the great responsibility which is mine as one of the watchmen on
the tower of Zion. (Quoted by Sheri L. Dew in Ezra Taft Benson, A Biography,
Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1987, p. 457.)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was present as a member of
the Quorum of the Twelve on that day, has written:
[O]n the first day of June in this year, 1978, the First Presidency and the Twelve, after full discussion of the proposition and all the premises and principles that are involved, importuned the Lord for a revelation. President Kimball was mouth, and he prayed with great faith and great fervor; this was one of the occasions when an inspired prayer was offered. You know the Doctrine and covenants statement, that if we pray by the power of the Spirit we will receive answers to our prayers and it will be given us what he shall ask (D&C 50:30). It was given President Kimball what he should ask. He prayed by the power of the Spirit, and there was perfect unity, total and complete harmony, between the Presidency and the Twelve on the issue involved.
And when President Kimball finished his prayer, the Lord gave a revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost...
The revelation came to the President of the Church and, in harmony with Church government, was announced by him...
Now if President Kimball had received
the revelation and had asked for a sustaining vote, obviously he would
have received it and the revelation would have been announced. But the
Lord chose this other course, in my judgement, because of the tremendous
import and the eternal significance of what was being revealed. This affects
our missionary work and all of our preaching to the world. This affects
our genealogical research and all of our temple ordinances. (Talk given
at Brigham Young University, "All Are Alike Unto God." See also Priesthood,
Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1981, pp. 126-137.)
Elder McConkie observes that a revelation was given, but that it was not the will of the Lord that it be announced. As with many other aspects of this policy, the reasons for this approach are not immediately evident.
Elder David B. Haight, the most junior member of the Quorum
at that time, also left us with a record of that spiritual occasion:
As one of the Twelve Apostles, I participated in special prayer and fasting before the Lord. I lent my voice with others in supplication for the blessing to be granted. And I witnessed the prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, speak in open communion with the Lord, pleading in behalf of members who had hitherto been denied that blessing, as well as future members not yet born or baptized.
I was blessed to be among those who witnessed a transcendent heavenly event. We were convened in the upper room of the Temple used by quorums of the First Presidency and the Twelve for their weekly meetings. All the members of these quorums were present except Elder Mark E. Petersen, who was on special assignment to South America, and Elder Delbert L. Stapley, who was ill in the LDS Hospital.
It was June 1, 1978 -- the first Thursday of the month when it is customary for the First Presidency to invite all of the General Authorities who are then in Salt Lake City to meet, receive instructions, partake of the sacrament, and bear testimony to one another.
On that day all had come fasting to the meeting, which lasted nearly three hours. Following the ordinance of the sacrament, all surrounded the altar and participated in a prayer of belief and commitment, after which those not of the First Presidency and Twelve were excused.
As the meeting of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve began, policy matters from around the world were considered. Then President Kimball addressed a sacred matter which (unknown to anyone outside of that body) had been discussed for several weeks -- the restrictions regarding conferral of the priesthood upon worthy men of all races. In preparation for this discussion, President Kimball had requested each of us to again research the scriptures and the comments of the earlier Brethren and make an exhaustive study of all that had been recorded concerning the matter. He had also met privately with each of us to learn our individual thoughts.
We knew this matter had weighed heavily upon the prophet's mind. We were touched when he reported that he had spent several days alone in this upper room, pleading with the Lord for an answer to our prayers. There he had told the Lord, as he now told us, that he was prepared to go on defending the present doctrine as taught by the prophets for over a hundred years. But he had been pleading with the Lord for an answer -- a clear answer.
Humbly then the prophet asked each of us to express his feelings regarding the matter, and we did so. As each responded, we witnessed an outpouring of the Spirit which bonded our souls together in perfect unity -- a glorious experience. In that bond of unity we felt our total dependence upon heavenly direction if we were to more effectively accomplish the Lord's charge to carry the message of hope and salvation to all the world.
President Kimball then suggested that we have our prayer at the altar. Usually he asked one of us to lead in prayer; however, on this day he asked, "Would you mind if I be voice at the altar today?" This was the Lord's prophet asking us. Such humility! Such meekness! So typical of this special servant of all.
I marveled at my being present that day, at having been found worthy to stand in that circle of modern Church leaders and hear with my own ears the prophet of God pour out his heart, pleading eloquently for the Lord to make his mind and will known to his servant, Spencer W. Kimball. The prophet pleaded that he would be given the necessary direction which could expand the Church throughout the world by offering the fullness of the everlasting gospel to all men, based solely upon their personal worthiness without reference to race or color.
Then in that room within the Lord's holy house, we were witnesses that the answer came to the Lord's prophet. The Spirit touched each of our hearts with the same message in the same way. Each was witness to a transcendent heavenly event.
President Kimball arose from the
altar. (We surrounded it according to seniority, I being number twelve.)
For some unknown reason, he turned to his right, and I was the first member
of the circle he encountered. He put his arms around me, and as I embraced
him I felt the beating of his heart and the intense emotion that filled
him. He then continued around the circle, embracing each of the Brethren.
No one spoke. Overcome with emotion, we simply shook hands and quietly
went to our dressing rooms. (Quoted by Lucille C. Tate, David B. Haight,
The Life Story of a Disciple, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1987,
Fundamentalists proclaim that Official Declaration -- 2 came strictly as a result of "pressure from the government" and without revelation. These accounts show clearly that the Lord was directing the affairs of His Church on June 1, 1978 and then revealed His will to His servants.
The Lord has promised that "Whatsoever ye shall ask in faith, being united in prayer according to my command, ye shall receive" (D&C 29:6). The First Presidency and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles complied with that directive and were richly blessed by the Lord through the principle of revelation. The Lord's will was made known to His anointed and then was announced to the world.
The Criticisms of Official Declaration -- 2, such
as those quoted above penned by fundamentalist authors, are ironic in several
ways. They claim their was no revelation because the revelation given to
President Kimball has not yet been released. President George Q. Cannon
gave helpful insight concerning "written revelations":
But is it always necessary to write
revelation? Sometimes it is necessary; sometimes it is not necessary, just
as God willeth. When the word of God is given through His servants, as
for instance, this morning through President Taylor making a certain promise;
that promise is just as binding as if written. If we live for it, it will
be fulfilled, just as much as if it were written. God has bestowed the
spirit of revelation upon His servants. (JD 23:366.)
We also note that there is no revelation announcing
the policy in the first place. Neither was the policy immediately implemented
by Joseph Smith in the 1830s. Even after it was practiced, there was no
revelation explaining the teaching. We could then ask our fundamentalist
critics: "If you demand to see the revelation removing the restriction,
could you please produce the revelation which defined the restriction in
the first place." Church members have followed the Lord's mouthpiece. Through
him, the policy was established and through him the policy was modified.
The pattern is clear: follow the Living Oracles. President Kimball knew
that some would not accept the declaration. He observed:
We do not expect the people of the
world to understand such things, for they will always be quick to assign
their own reasons or to discount the divine process of revelation. (Teachings
of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 452.)
Fundamentalists generally declare that they accept The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the only true church on the face of the earth, but they have taken a lead in criticizing President Kimball concerning the 1978 Revelation and Official Declaration -- 2. President Kimball noted that "people of the world" would not understand and they would "discount the divine process of revelation."
Some uninformed fundamentalists may quote the verses in
Abraham cited above where pharaoh partook of the blood of the Canaanites
and was therefore unable to hold the priesthood. However, Brigham Young
never utilized these verses to explain the policy. Likewise, we have shown
that the pre-flood Canaanites were cursed with black skin independently
of Cain and they are not related to post-flood Canaanites who are descendants
of Canaan (Ham's son). It is also important to realize that African Blacks
are descendants of Cush and not Canaan. Fundamentalist arguments for rejecting
President Kimball's revelation and pronouncement are fraught with problems.
Through their claims that the 1978 declaration was unauthorized,
fundamentalist assert that the Church will have to deal with several important
1. The Church will lose its priesthood(21) authority while fundamentalists claim to still hold it.
2. Temples are defiled by allowing improper individuals to function within them, thus justifying fundamentalists in engaging in their own temple building activities.
3. The Church is even more "out of order" and One Mighty
and Strong (D&C 85:7) will be required to correct this mistake.(22)
While none of these assertions are true, their appeal
to fundamentalists should be obvious.
Fundamentalists purport that Church members will lose
the priesthood and corrupt genealogical lines through intermarriage with
the forbidden race.(23) They define the
forbidden race as African Blacks and Afro-Americans. Further they illustrate
their argument by observing that anciently God would not allow intermarriage
between Israel and descendants of Canaan. Several problems exist with this
reasoning. First, the intermarriage between the post-flood Canaanites and
Israel did not involve the curse of pre-flood Canaanites or of Cain so
far as the scriptures have defined since the pre-flood Canaanites and post-flood
Canaanites are not related (see fig. 9-1). Secondly, we observe that Abraham
and Joseph each married Egyptian women who presumably would have partaken
of the blood of the pre-flood Canaanites. Abraham's wife Hagar is described
in the Bible Dictionary as "An Egyptian handmaid of Sarah" (p. 698).
Concerning Joseph, it is recorded in Genesis 41:45:
"And Pharaoh called Joseph's name
Zaphnath-paaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah
priest of On.
Concerning Asenath, Joseph's Egyptian wife, Hugh Nibley
For Asenath, it will be recalled,
was the daughter of the high priest of Heliopolis (Gen. 41:45; 46:20),
and hence of the pure line of Ham; she was also the wife of Joseph and
the mother of our own vaunted ancestor Ephraim (Gen. 41:50-52; 46:20).
(Abraham in Egypt, p. 215.)
Additionally we noted that Esau married several post-flood
And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite:
Which were a grief of mind unto
Isaac and to Rebekah. (Genesis 26:34-35.)
Now these [are] the generations of Esau, who [is] Edom.
Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite;
And Bashemath Ishmael's daughter, sister of Nebajoth.
And Adah bare to Esau Eliphaz; and Bashemath bare Reuel;
And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam,
and Korah: these [are] the sons of Esau, which were born unto him in the
land of Canaan. (Genesis 36:1-5.)
Two of Israel's twelve sons married Canaanite women and
sired sons. Genesis 46:10 records:
And the sons of Simeon; Jemuel,
and Jamin, and Ohad, and Jachin, and Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanitish
woman. (Genesis 46:10.)
Simeon's Canaanite children are also listed as a part of the house of Israel (Genesis 46:10, Numbers 26:12-14, 1 Chronicles 4:24-27). Judah also took a Canaanite woman to wife. The genealogy of Judah's Canaanite children is found in 1 Chronicles 4:21-22 where they are all given inheritances in the house of Israel.
According to the dogmatic fundamentalist teachings, each
of these men, Abraham, Joseph, Esau, Simeon and Judah, would have been
cursed concerning the priesthood because of these marriages.(24)
Nevertheless, no such curse was realized.
Some fundamentalists claim that permitting blacks in modern
temples is a fulfillment of a prophecy by Paul:
Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
Who opposeth and exalteth himself
above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God
sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. (2 Thes.
They believe that by allowing blacks to participate in temple ordinances, the son of perdition, who they believe is Cain, will sit in the temple of God, "showing himself that he is God." However, we remember that Joseph Smith taught that "persons of all languages, and of every tongue, and of every color" would "worship the Lord of Hosts in His holy temple and offer up their orisons in His sanctuary" (HC 4:213). Likewise, Elijah Abel was the first black to receive sacred ordinances in a temple in this dispensation. He was washed in the Kirtland Temple in 1836 under the direction of Joseph Smith.
The fundamentalist teaching concerning defilement of the
temple by African Blacks is important to certain schismatic fundamentalist
groups because some have assumed authorization to build their own temples
and endowment houses. Reportedly, such edifices have been constructed along
the Wasatch Front and in Mexico. Notwithstanding their voluminous complaints
against the Church, it is absolute that no authority exists within their
apostate organizations to perform any temple ordinance.
The Church is further "Out of Order"?
The issue of allowing blacks to hold the priesthood has only recently been added to the fundamentalist "laundry list" of things One Mighty and Strong (mentioned in D&C 85:7) is suppose to rectify. Since the birth of "fundamentalism" in the 1930s and 1940s, a process has repeated itself over and over. Fundamentalists disagree with Church leaders concerning some doctrine and then await a One Mighty and Strong to vindicate them. The issue of blacks and the priesthood has taken a similar course.
In 1981 the Church published a new edition of the Book
of Mormon with improved footnotes and other changes. One change was a substitution
of the word pure for the word white in 2 Nephi 30:6:
And then shall they rejoice; for
they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God and
their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many
generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a pure
and a delightsome people.
Some fundamentalists have claimed the change was prompted
by the 1978 Official Declaration and that Church leaders were tampering
with Sacred Writ without authorization. Actually, the change was made by
the prophet Joseph Smith in 1840 edition of the Book of Mormon. Later American
editions did not show this change because they had followed the first European
and 1837 editions.(25)
Many of the details surrounding the policy of withholding
the priesthood from blacks have not yet been revealed to us.(26)
Nonetheless, throughout this dispensation the Lord has guided His Church
through the Living Oracles concerning this important topic. Joseph Smith
We believe all that God has revealed,
all that He does now reveal and we believe that He will yet reveal many
great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. (Articles
of Faith, v. 9.)
Continuous revelation is a fundamental doctrine. It is the source of direction concerning all worthy males and the priesthood.
2. See The Fundamentalist Mormon, p. 19; The Notes, pp. 260-271; N.a., The Modern Mormon Dilemma, Bluffdale, Utah: Star of Truth, 1988, pp. 119-131 and a letter to one of the authors from a son of Rulon Allred pp. 21-24. Additionally, this has been reiterated in personal communications with several fundamentalists.
4. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1955, 2:55. Elder Smith was less definite in Way to Perfection, 1931, p. 103. See also Ronald K. Esplin, "Brigham Young and Priesthood Denial to the Blacks: An Alternate View," Brigham Young University Studies, Spring, 1979, pp. 396-399.
5. Lester E. Bush and Armand L. Mauss, eds, Neither White nor Black, Midvale, Utah: Signature books, 1984, pp. 33, 38, 76. See also Alma Allred, "What Difference Does it Make: They've Got the Priesthood Now," unpublished manuscript. Copy in possession of the authors.
10. No scriptures states that Cain was cursed with black skin. The "mark" placed upon him would identify him "lest any finding him should kill him." The language is similar to that found in Alma 3:6-7 which discusses the mark of dark skin placed upon the Lamanites.
12. Some writers have speculated that this curse may have been only to the priesthood rights of the firstborn, the patriarchal priesthood. See Alma Allred's "What Difference Does It Make? They've Got the Priesthood Now."
17. Discourse given Feb. 5, 1852. CHD. It is useful to note that Brigham also stated that the "curse of Cain" would not be removed until "all the other children of Adam have had the privilege of receiving the Priesthood." (JD 2:142-143; see also JD 7:290-291, 11:272.)
19. John Taylor, Mediation and Atonement, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News Company, 1882, p. 199. This statement may contrast the priesthood line listed in D&C 84:6-16, though not the line mentioned in D&C 107:42.
24. Other examples could be cited. The mother of Boaz, who married Ruth (Ruth 4:13) was a Canaanite woman. The grandfather of the prophet Nathan mentioned in D&C 132:39 was Egyptian (1 Chronicles 2:34-41) yet clearly Nathan held the priesthood.
And Noah was four hundred and fifty years old, and begat Japheth; and forty-two years afterward he begat Shem of her who was the mother of Japheth, and when he was five hundred years old he begat Ham.
And Noah and his sons hearkened unto the Lord, and gave heed, and they were called the sons of God.
And when these men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, the sons of men saw that those daughters were fair, and they took them wives, even as they chose. (Moses 8:12-14)