Blacks in Mormonism: Race and the Priesthood with Marvin Perkins (Part 5)

Todd Noall

Todd Noall

Source Expert

Todd Noall is an author and religious scholar at Mormonism Explained with a focus on the history and theology of religion.

Fact Checked by Kevin Prince

So, what’s interesting is that if 2 Nephi 5:21 told us that this is talking about spiritual darkness and purity with it with the light, well, if those idioms are correct, then what that means is that these are the same idioms that were being… that we covered in Jeremiah and Nam and Joel, which means that Joseph Smith couldn’t have possibly written the Book of Mormon because Doctrine Covenants section 1 verse 24 tells us that he wrote after the manner of his language, which was English. The only book of scripture that we have written in English after the manner of our language, the English language, was the Doctrine and Covenants. It says it in the first book of the book of instructions for building the restored gospel. And so, what that means is that this is an ancient document because it has consistent idioms as the Old Testament. 

Joseph Smith couldn’t have possibly written it. Now, watch this as we go. Remember the words of Elder Bednar when we talked about patterns? Let’s go to Alma 1:30 and 11, first for 1144. You’re going to see the exact same pattern with the words ‘black’ and ‘white’ substituted for other words. ‘Bond is free, male and female are both, old and young, bond and free, male and female, both the wicked and the righteous.’ There’s your replacement for black and white. It isn’t referring to black Mormons. And then, in Alma 1:30, whether out of the church or in the church, they’re tucked in that exact same pattern. So, with that trio of Scripture, we can tell two very powerful things: that the Lamanites never had a darker skin, and the Nephites, they were always talking about a spiritual darkness. And these idioms are consistent with Old Testament idioms, which means Joseph Smith couldn’t have possibly written the Book of Mormon. This is proof that the Book of Mormon is an ancient document, at least in my mind. 

Let’s talk about priesthood. Most don’t know that the priesthood was given to all men in 1830 when the church was first restored. Here’s just a small list of some of the men of African descent who held the priesthood. Which you’ll find interesting is that the priesthood restriction started in 1852. Yet Enoch Abel, the son of Elijah Abel, was ordained to the priesthood in 1900, and in 1934, his son, named after his grandfather Elijah Abel, was ordained in 1934 as a priest, in 1935 as an elder. Remember the key and how important priesthood is. Who qualifies for priesthood? We’ve uncovered at least 12 direct commands to Joseph. Joseph was not building Joseph’s church. He was building the Lord’s Church. He didn’t seek after it; he was just trying to find out which church to join, which one should he join? And the Lord came and said, ‘I’m gonna do a mighty work through you,’ and through this mighty work, he gave them. Joseph had to pray for everything, every instruction on how he builds the Lord’s church. And with a great inequality of man, he prayed about this issue over and over again. 

We’ve uncovered at least 12 direct commands for Joseph to give the priesthood to everyone who would embrace the gospel. And here are the qualifications for priesthood: faith, hope, charity, and love, with an eye single to the glory of God qualify him for the work. Who is eliminated from this list? Those without faith, hope, charity, and love, and with an eye single to the glory of God. Those are the only people who are excluded from this priesthood here. If you follow your brand new footnote that you’ll find on the word ‘qualify,’ you’ll see topical guide priesthood qualifying for another direct revelation given to Joseph Smith. Now, in the scriptures, something is called either a calling or it’s called a commandment. This is the only place in all of Scripture that is called both a calling and commandment, and it’s in Doctrine Covenants section 36 verses 4 and 5. And it reads, ‘And now this calling commandment give I unto you concerning all men that as many as shall come before my servant Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith, junior embracing this calling and commandment shall be ordained and sent forth to preach the everlasting gospel among the nations.’ Pretty clear. The clear guidance is repeated in Doctrine Covenants section 63:57. Again, it’s at least 12 times, but because of the short time we have, I’m only going to cover a few. We have scripture reference guides on our website, we’ve got more thorough coverage in the videos on our website that you can find again at blacks and the Priesthood.

“And again, verily I say unto those, say unto you, those who desire in their hearts and meekness to warn sinners to repentance, let them be ordained unto this power.” So it’s been there in front of us the entire time, and these require no footnotes to understand that the Lord had intended for all who would embrace the gospel to be ordained to the priesthood because remember the plan of salvation; it’s the essential ingredient. Alright, and let’s see, this is all confirmed by the race in the priesthood article in 2000, December 6, 2000, with the church, basically, through the SA, tells us that it was the racial attitudes at the time that the restriction was in place, and they disavowed the teachings of the past. So we have to get the other three walls down. 

In conclusion, I just want to say that you know you just have to keep in mind that the race and the term black and white were created and made world popular. They were used prior to that, but it was made world famous by Blumenbach in 1775 when he wrote in 1776 when his work was published, black and white. And the Scriptures refer to the spirits of man; they have nothing to do with skin color because there are no black and white people. You know how skin color changes, and we’ve been taught that it is a curse and a sign of something bad when it’s actually a sign of the Lord’s love for us. Idioms, you’ve got to understand idioms if you’re going to understand Scripture, and idioms help to prove that the Book of Mormon is actually an ancient document. A curse is a separation from God, his ways, or his path, and there’s several direct revelations to give all men the priesthood. So with that, I close and tell you how much I absolutely love this gospel and the opportunity that I have to teach and to share that that the Lord has given me. And I hope this has been helpful to you, and with that in mind, I’ll take any questions you might have, and no question is off limits. 

How do you think the 1852 policy came regarding blacks in the priesthood? I’m 100% certain that it’s a testimony that it came because of the racial attitudes that were in the country at the time. That is simple, and that is also supported by the race in the priesthood essay that was published on What are your thoughts about why it took so long for the prophets to change the practice, so late in 1978? Why not revelation earlier? Well, you have to keep in mind, and I’m gonna say this a little harshly. It might come out a little harshly just to get through it quickly. Everybody in the country was racist at the time, even the abolitionists who were the best in the country. They didn’t even want to free all the slaves at once, and those that were free, they didn’t want to give them all the rights at once; they wanted to try them out with a few and see how that worked out. I mean, that’s awful when you think about it nowadays. And so everybody was racist at that time. In this 1852 policy, what it actually did is institutionalized racism in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So it gave them what they thought was a Divine Right for the weakness that they were bringing in, and they had to overcome. And so if that was the case, they didn’t start trying to outlaw racism in America until the 1960s. And so it was about a hundred years before they even started trying to address the problem. And you try stewing in some soup for a hundred years, those thoughts are gonna be just so well embedded into the fabric of the church; it’s going to take a little while longer to get it out. I mean, and just remember we saw the same thing in the New Testament. 
Here we have the resurrected Savior who has shown these guys everything, and the very last command he gave them was to take the gospel to all the world, which included the Gentiles. But they refused to do it because their hatred for the Gentiles was so deep that they just… They had laws that made it illegal for them to even come in contact with them. And so, man’s heart doesn’t change overnight; it’s something that takes time. How would you explain the prophet’s ex-Brigham Young being a racist in their talks about African descent? It’s really easy. Everybody was racist in the country, and they just… If you read Doctrine and Covenants section 1 verse 24 through 28, it says, ‘I know they’re gonna make mistakes. I know sometimes they’re not gonna seek me. I know they’re gonna sin, and yeah, when they do, it’ll be revealed, it’ll be made known.’ You gotta keep in mind, this is a church of continuing the revelation, and we were given a huge task to a few people. I mean, just imagine if you and a few of your closest friends in the war were asked to go start another church or a church or something that you’ve never seen, something that has never been here, you know, hasn’t been on the earth in your lifetime. How daunting will that task be? There were gonna be some mistakes made as the Lord pointed out. And again, if the Lord knows they’re gonna make sense, it’s gonna make mistakes and sometimes not seek Him, I’ve got to be okay with that. So would you like the church to apologize for how they treated African American from eighteen and why don’t they? It’s a part of the church’s history regarding blacks in Mormonism.

By Todd Noall, Source Expert

Todd Noall is an author and religious scholar at Mormonism Explained with a focus on the history and theology of religion.

Fact Checked by Mr. Kevin Prince, Source Expert

Kevin Prince is a religious scholar and host of the Gospel Learning Youtube channel. His channel has garnered over 41,000 subscribers and accumulated over 4.5 million views. Mr. Prince also created the Gospel Learning App, a reliable platform where individuals seeking truth can access trustworthy answers to religious questions from top educators worldwide.

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