An editorial by this title appeared in the Deseret News late in 1877. Following a few paragraphs about growing European awareness of African geography through the work of explorers like Henry M. Stanley, the editor (probably George Q. Cannon) wrote:
A fresh field is opened to missionary labor. The benighted tribes of the wilds of Africa will not long be left without a knowledge of the worldâ€™s Redeemer. The societies among the various sects for the proselyting of the heathen will vie with each other in being first on the ground, and adventurous spirits will be found, who, for the love of mankind, and a good round salary, will be ready to march into the strongholds of heathendom and brave the dangers of savage life in the country revealed by â€œthe man who found Livingstone.â€
In this, as in all the events which transpire on the earth, we recognize the finger of Providence. The curse pronounced on Ham thousands of years ago has been heavy upon his posterity. But in these latter days the signs of the times portend the coming of sweet Mercy to lift from the dark-skinned descendants of Noahâ€™s froward son the bondage and darkness of centuries. The emancipation of the colored race in the United States and the opening up of the long-hidden regions of interior Africa, are indications of the workings of the Almighty towards the lifting up and final redemption of this branch of the human family.
The fullness of the gospel may not reach them for years. Nor are they at present prepared to receive the plenitude of its benefits. But the angel which restored it to earth proclaimed the glad tidings that it should be preached â€œto every nation, and kindred, and tongue and people;â€ and the promise of the Almighty concerning the latter-day Zion is, â€œunto it shall come of every nation under heaven.â€ These sayings will be fulfilled to the letter, and the Great Father of the race is directing and controlling all things, and moving upon men and nations for the accomplishment of His purposes designed from the beginning.
This is the great and last dispensation, in which all that is hidden shall be disclosed, and all nations and lands, with their history and relationship to each other, will be made manifest. Discovery will follow discovery, and events will follow each other in rapid succession, accelerated by every invention and development of art and science, until the Divine plan is accomplished in is entirety for the redemption and exaltation of Godâ€™s children who belong to this planet. Happy is he who has eyes to see and a soul to understand the purposes of the Almighty and their manifestations throughout the world from day to day.
I’m not entirely sure what to make of this.
There is the obvious problem of the now-disavowed “curse” reference. There is mixed praise and disparagement of Christian missionaries who risked their lives in the best service they knew to offer, including the translation of the Bible into so many languages which even now lack a translation of the Book of Mormon. It would be a full century before we could (or would, or did) begin to embrace the promises and accept a role in fulfilling the prophecies outlined here.
Yet there is also a candid acknowledgement of the claim of all races to the Atonement and a place in the family of God, and of our inevitable responsibility of carrying the message everywhere, without exception. We knew this from the opening of this dispensation, of course, through the “every nation, kindred, tongue and people” language — but seldom had there been a statement so explicitly acknowledging the inclusion of Africa and Africans in that promise. And overall the language is cheerful and upbeat, not begruding the eventual and inevitable inclusion of black faces in the choir, but greeting the prospect with approval and acceptance.
Not bad for 1877.