Lie #2 – Discrimination didn’t start with Joseph Smith?

There is no evidence that any black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime.”  (Official LDS Church statement, 2013)

Another carefully worded statement. Some may presume from it that the priesthood denial doesn’t have its origins with Joseph Smith, which would be wrong. However, the concept and practice of restricting priesthood based on race both started in Joseph Smith’s day. In fact the LDS Church officially acknowledged this in 1968:

LDS First Presidency letter, 15 December 1968:

To General Authorities, Regional Representatives of the Twelve, Stake Presidents, Mission Presidents, and Bishops.

Dear Brethren:

In view of confusion that has arisen, it was decided at a meeting of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve to restate the position of the Church with regard to the Negro both in society and in the Church.

A word of explanation concerning the position of the Church.

From the beginning of this dispensation, Joseph Smith and all succeeding presidents of the Church have taught that Negroes, while spirit children of a common Father, and the progeny of our earthly parents Adam and Eve, were not yet to receive the priesthood, for reasons which we believe are known to God, but which He has not made fully known to man.

Our living prophet, President David O. McKay, has said, ‘The seeming discrimination by the Church toward the Negro is not something which originated with man; but goes back into the beginning with God. … ‘Revelation assures us that this plan antedates man’s mortal existence, extending back to man’s pre-existent state.’ President McKay has also said, ‘Sometime in God’s eternal plan, the Negro will be given the right to hold the priesthood.’

Faithfully your brethren,

The First Presidency

Hugh B. Brown
N. Eldon Tanner

Is the LDS Church officially repudiating this official LDS Church statement? Their latest statement is in direct conflict with it. Was the First Presidency of 1968 teaching false doctrine, and – if so – what does this say about the reliability of their successors?

The 1968 First Presidency wasn’t mistaken or speaking from ignorance, there is in fact ample evidence that the Priesthood ban began with Joseph Smith – even if the practice wasn’t always consistently or fully implemented. It’s origins were more with Joseph than the LDS Church wants people to believe:

“Cain’s Priesthood proved a cursing to him because of his unrighteousness.” (Joseph Smith, 1840, History of the Church 2:213. Note: Joseph speaks of “the Negroes or sons of Cain”, thus equating the black race and lineage of Cain together, see Joseph Smith Journal, 25 January 1842; History of the Church 4:501 & 1:75)

“He [Noah] cursed him [Canaan, Ham’s son] by the Priesthood which he held, and the Lord had respect to his word, and the Priesthood which he held… and the curse remains upon the posterity of Canaan until the present day.” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 4:445-6)

“He [Joseph F. Smith] said that the Prophet Joseph is credited with saying that…Ham had married a daughter of Cain, and by him the curse was carried through the flood…after Ham’s curse, his seed were entirely black.” (Journal of Abraham H. Cannon, 29 March 1892, see First Presidency Meeting Minutes, 18 august 1900).

“A black skin … has ever been a curse that has followed an apostate of the holy Priesthood.” (Joseph Smith, Times & Seasons 6:857.)

Saturday, May 31st, 1879, at the house of President Abraham O. Smoot, Provo City, Utah, Utah County, at 5 O’Clock p.m. President John Taylor, Elders Brigham Young, Abraham O. Smoot, Zebedee Coltrin and L. John Nuttall met, and the subject of ordaining Negroes to the Priesthood was presented.

Brother Coltrin: The Spring that we went up in Zion’s Camp in 1834, Brother Joseph sent Brother J. P. Green and me out to gather up means to assist in gathering out the Saints from Jackson County, Missouri. On our return home we got in conversation about the Negro having a right to the Priesthood, and I took up the side that he had no right. Brother Green argued that he had. The subject got so warm between us that he said he would report me to Brother Joseph when we got home for preaching false doctrine, which doctrine that I advocated was that the Negro could not hold the Priesthood. “all right” said I “I hope you will.” And when we got to Kirtland, we both went to Brother Joseph’s office together to make our returns, and Brother Green was as good as his word and reported to Brother Joseph that I said that the Negro could not hold the Priesthood. Brother Joseph kind of dropped his head and rested it on his hand for a minute, and then said, “Brother Zebedee is right, for the Spirit of the Lord saith the Negro has no right nor cannot hold the Priesthood.” He made no reference to Scripture at all, but such was his decision. I don’t recollect ever having any conversation with him afterwards on this subject. But I have heard him say in public that no person having the least particle of Negro blood can hold the Priesthood. (Journal of L. John Nuttall 1:290-93.)

In those years when I became acquainted with Joseph myself in the Far West, about the year 1838, I received from Brother Joseph substantially the same instructions. It was on my application to him, what should be done with the Negro in the South, as I was preaching to them. He said I could baptize them by consent of their masters, but not to confer the Priesthood upon them. (Abraham O. Smoot, same meeting as above).

President George Q. Cannon remarked that the Prophet [Joseph] taught this doctrine: That the seed of Cain could not receive the Priesthood, nor act in any of the offices of the Priesthood until the seed of Abel should come forward and take precedence over Cain’s offspring. (22 August 1895, Minutes of Meeting of General Authorities, The Way to Perfection (1931), Joseph Fielding Smith, p. 110.)

President [George Q.] Cannon remarked upon this subject, as he said, he had on a prior occasion when this subject was under consideration, that he had understood that the Prophet Joseph [Smith] had said during this lifetime, that there would be a great wrong perpetrated if the seed of Cain were allowed to have the Priesthood before Abel should have posterity to receive it, and this curse therefore was to remain upon the seed of Cain until the time should come that Abel should have posterity. He understood that that time could not come until Abel should beget spirits in the eternal worlds and those spirits obtain tabernacles; (George Albert Smith Papers, Manuscripts Division, Marriott Library, University of Utah)

President Young held to the doctrine that no man tainted with Negro blood was eligible to have the Priesthood; that President Taylor held to the same doctrine, claiming to have been taught it by the Prophet Joseph Smith. (George Q. Cannon, Council Minutes, 22 August 1900.)

It is true that the Negro race is barred from holding the Priesthood, and this has always been the case. the Prophet Joseph Smith taught this doctrine. (Joseph F. Smith, Improvement Era 27:564, 1924).

I say the curse is not yet taken off the sons of Canaan, neither will it be until it is affected by as great power as caused it to come; and the people who interfere the least with the purposes of God in this matter, will come under the least condemnation before Him; and those that are determined to pursue a course, which shows an opposition, and a feverish restlessness against the decrees of the Lord, will learn, when perhaps it is too late for their own good. (Joseph Smith, Messenger & Advocate 2:290; History of the Church 2:438.)

The Prophet Joseph Smith was supposedly commanded by God to withdraw the Priesthood from Elijah Abel, and revoke the ordination. …

Although there is no official Church record as to the revocation, Elijah Abel affirmed the fact to my father, Thomas A. Shreeve, when both were living in the Salt Lake 10th Ward, during 1872-77. At the time, Brother Abel told young Thomas, who baptised Abel’s grandchildren that the Prophet Joseph “came to him with tears in his eyes one day, and told him that he had been commanded by the Lord to withdraw the holy Priesthood from him.” (Caleb A. Shreeve, Sr, Salt Lake Tribune, “Forum”, 26 October 1970.)

Brother Coltrin further said Brother Abel was ordained a Seventy … and when the Prophet Joseph learned of his lineage he was dropped from the Quorum, and another was put in his place. (Meeting, 31 May 1879, as related by Willian E. Berrett, Mormonism and the Negro.)

It was not only a policy, it was a doctrine canonized in the Book of Abraham –

26 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.

27 Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry; (Abraham 1)