Essays On Race

Even after 1852, at least two black Mormons continued to hold the priesthood.When one of these men, Elijah Abel, petitioned to receive his temple endowment in 1879, his request was denied.There has never been a Churchwide policy of segregated congregations.

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Those realities, though unfamiliar and disturbing today, influenced all aspects of people’s lives, including their religion.

Many Christian churches of that era, for instance, were segregated along racial lines.

Jane Manning James, a faithful black member who crossed the plains and lived in Salt Lake City until her death in 1908, similarly asked to enter the temple; she was allowed to perform baptisms for the dead for her ancestors but was not allowed to participate in other ordinances.

The curse of Cain was often put forward as justification for the priesthood and temple restrictions.

In theology and practice, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embraces the universal human family.

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Latter-day Saint scripture and teachings affirm that God loves all of His children and makes salvation available to all.The Church had always allowed Pacific Islanders to hold the priesthood, and President Mc Kay clarified that black Fijians and Australian Aborigines could also be ordained to the priesthood and instituted missionary work among them.In South Africa, President Mc Kay reversed a prior policy that required prospective priesthood holders to trace their lineage out of Africa.Those who accepted this view believed that God’s “curse” on Cain was the mark of a dark skin.Black servitude was sometimes viewed as a second curse placed upon Noah’s grandson Canaan as a result of Ham’s indiscretion toward his father.One of these men, Elijah Abel, also participated in temple ceremonies in Kirtland, Ohio, and was later baptized as proxy for deceased relatives in Nauvoo, Illinois.There is no reliable evidence that any black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime.The Church’s lay ministry also tends to facilitate integration: a black bishop may preside over a mostly white congregation; a Hispanic woman may be paired with an Asian woman to visit the homes of a racially diverse membership.Church members of different races and ethnicities regularly minister in one another’s homes and serve alongside one another as teachers, as youth leaders, and in myriad other assignments in their local congregations.The Church was established in 1830, during an era of great racial division in the United States.At the time, many people of African descent lived in slavery, and racial distinctions and prejudice were not just common but customary among white Americans.


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