Category: Race and the Priesthood

Stay Thou Nearby: A Review

The 1852–1978 priesthood and temple ban on Blacks in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a bitter pill to swallow, especially for those affected most directly by it. I have been grateful, however, for efforts in the Church to address the issue more openly in recent years, including several publications from Deseret Book relating to the subject. These include both My Lord, He Calls Me and Let’s Talk About Race and Priesthood, with the most recent contribution to the subject from Deseret Book being Stay Thou Nearby: Reflections on the 1978 Revelation on the Priesthood. 

Idiosyncratic ranking of the “Let’s Talk About” series from Deseret Book

This is, I think, the best thing to come out of Deseret Book in a long while. I somewhat wish these books had existed when I was much, much younger, but the expertise (and, frankly, spiritual maturity of many members) likely didn’t really exist in the right forms until recently. What follows is my totally idiosyncratic, personal ranking of the series. Every book is excellent (how often can you say that about a book series like this?), so this is not “best to worst” but more “what Ivan enjoyed or found most useful”  This may or may not help you. Also, some volumes have either not been released or I haven’t read them, so they are absent from the list:

W. Paul Reeve on Race and the Priesthood

The race-based priesthood and temple ban that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had in place from the 1850s until 1978 is a heavy, but important subject to study. I’ve shared a review about W. Paul Reeve’s recently-released Let’s Talk About Race and Priesthood where I stated that it was one of “the best and most important entries in a fantastic series”, and I stand by that statement. Recently, W. Paul Reeve shared some of the insights he has gained from his research on the topic of race and the priesthood in an interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk. What follows here is a co-post to that interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion). W. Paul Reeve describes the history of the race-based priesthood and temple ban as a three-stage arc. In the interview he stated that: The book is divided into three phases which lay out the chronological history of the racial priesthood and temple restrictions as I have come to understand them: Phase 1. In phase one there were no restrictions. Priesthood and temples were open to people of all races and ethnicities. In fact the First Presidency published an article in the Nauvoo newspaper in 1840 announcing their intent to welcome “persons of all languages, and of every tongue, and of every color” into the temple that they would start to build the following spring. Phase 2. Sadly, that open…

Let’s Talk About Race and Priesthood

Let’s Talk About Race and Priesthood by W. Paul Reeve is a thought-provoking and insightful book that explores some key aspects of the intersection of race and religion in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To me, this volume is up there with Brittany Chapman Nash’s Let’s Talk About Polygamy as both the best and most important entries in a fantastic series. Reeve, a professor of history at the University of Utah, draws on his extensive research to provide a nuanced and detailed account of the Church’s racial policies and practices from its founding in the early 19th century to the present day.

Juneteenth and Utah Territory

Tomorrow is Sunday, June 19, which is celebrated as Juneteenth National Independence Day in memory of the day that the Emancipation Proclamation began to be enforced in Galveston, Texas by the Union Army (19 June 1865).  In Utah, this also doubles as the anniversary of the day that Abraham Lincoln signed a bill into law that banned slavery in United States territories (19 June 1862), ending slavery in Utah Territory: CHAP. CXI.–An Act to secure Freedom to all Persons within the Territories of the United States. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That from and after the passage of this act there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the Territories of the United States now existing, or which may at any time hereafter be formed or acquired by the United States, otherwise than in punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted. APPROVED, June 19, 1862. Prior to this bill passing, Utah Territory was a slave territory.  While the practice of slavery was relatively small in Utah (from what Sally Gordon was saying at the Mormon History Association Conference, most Latter-day Saint enslavers moved to the California colony of San Bernardino), it was present in Utah and had been made legal by the territory legislature in 1852, with Brigham Young’s encouragement.  In fact, three slaves, named Green Flake, Hark Lay, and…

On the Priesthood and Temple Ban

With the recent hullabaloo about Brad Wilcox’s firesides, I have had a few things on my mind, perhaps most intensely around the priesthood and temple ban against individuals of black African ancestry.  The short version is this: After studying the evidence, I believe that the ban was not instituted and sustained by God’s will.  Now, I’m not trying to pick on Brother Wilcox by bringing this up (he did apologize, etc.), but because of the discussion about his fireside, the topic has been on my mind, and I feel like I need to share my perspective. It should be noted up-front that current Church statements leave the issue of whether the ban was of God or human-made open to interpretation.  For example, the heading to Official Declaration 2 acknowledges that “Church records offer no clear insights in the origin of this practice. Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter this practice.”  The Gospel Topics Essay on the subject acknowledges that American racial culture of the mid-19th century may have influenced Brigham Young in establishing the ban.  It also echoes the language of the section header for Official Declaration 2, leaving it open to interpretation whether the ban was inspired and held in place by God’s will or simply held in place by the personal beliefs of Church leaders in the words and actions of their predecessors.  Thus, there is room in the Church for accepting…