Most people have heard rumors about Mormon racism. As a member for 30+ years, I can confirm that most of it is true. From 1849 to 1978, the LDS Church had a policy against ordaining black men of African descent to its “priesthood,” which effectively prevented them from holding any ecclesiastical office and relegated them to the status of second-class citizens. Under the pre-1978 policy, black men and women were also prohibited from going to LDS temples, which meant that they could not be sealed (married) for “time and all eternity,” the crowning ordinance of the LDS Church.
What most people do not understand is the theological underpinning of Mormon racism, which is alive and well in the LDS church today and extends not only to African Americans but also Native Americans and other races.
I have no idea whether Mitt Romney is a racist. However, I do know that Mormon theology is fundamentally racist, and Romney grew up during a peak time in Mormon racism when the LDS church opposed the civil rights movement. The Mormon theology of skin color is clearly taught in Mormon scripture, including the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham. It is not merely the opinion of certain prominent Mormon racists, including Brigham Young.
In 1978, LDS prophet Spencer W. Kimball had a “revelation” from God telling him to extend the priesthood to all worthy males (women in the LDS church have still not achieved equal status). Coincidentally, the revelation occurred shortly after the IRS revoked the tax exempt status of another racist institution, Bob Jones University. The revelation, however, was merely a policy change and did not repudiate any of the underlying racial rhetoric that had been used for over a century to discriminate against blacks.
To explain Mormon racism, I have to go back in time to before the "creation" of the world. To many Mormons, who are Young Earth Creationists, this is around 6,000 years ago. To more sophisticated Mormons, the events occurred billions of years ago, possibly before the Big Bang.
Elohim (the Mormon God), had fathered billions of “spirit” children through his many wives. He needed a place to send them where they could obtain physical bodies and eventually work their way to Godhood. Mormons believe that God was once a man that lived on a world similar to ours. He now lives on a planet orbiting the star Kolob.
Elohim’s spirit children were graded by intelligence. Highly intelligent spirits were destined to become the Mormon leaders on Earth. (Abraham 3:22-23). Two of the most intelligent were Jehovah (the Mormon Jesus) and Lucifer (Satan).
A War in Heaven broke out over whether to give humans free will. Lucifer, who opposed free will, was joined by one-third of all of the spirits designated to come to this world. They fought against Jehovah and Elohim and lost. As punishment, Lucifer and his minions were denied bodies and became the demons that can possess and tempt human beings (this is beginning to sound a lot like the Thetans of Scientology).
The future Israelites (including Mormons) fought “valiantly” on the side of Jehovah. Those who fought less valiantly or were neutral were born as other races. Blacks were sent to Earth through the lineage of Cain, and a mark (black skin) was put upon them for their rebellion against God. (Moses 5:16-41; 7:8,12,22.) As stated in Moses 7:22, “Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had no place among them.”
As noted above, Mormon racism is not limited to African Americans. The Book of Mormon tells the story of a colony of Jews who settled in the Americas circa 600 B.C. The colony split into two groups: one righteous (the Nephites) and one wicked (the Lamanites). Members of the righteous group were described as being “white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome.” However, wicked group was cursed by God with dark skin and eventually became the American Indian. According to the Book of Mormon:
· 2 Nephi 5:21 – “And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.
· Alma 3: 6 – "And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men."
· 1 Nephi 12:23 – "became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations."
Not to be left out, the Chinese have also been the object of Mormon racism. According to Mormon Apostle Mark E. Petersen:
“Let us consider the great mercy of God for a moment. A Chinese, born in China with a dark skin, and with all the handicaps of that race seems to have little opportunity. But think of the mercy of God to Chinese people who are willing to accept the gospel. In spite of whatever they might have done in the pre-existence to justify being born over there as Chinamen, if they now, in this life, accept the gospel and live it the rest of their lives they can have the Priesthood, go to the temple and receive endowments and sealings, and that means they can have exaltation. Isn't the mercy of God marvelous?” (Race Problems as They Affect the Church, an address by Apostle Mark E. Petersen, Brigham Young University, August 27, 1954)
Incredibly, Mormons believe that they are Jews – or more precisely, Israelites. They believe that God made a covenant with Abraham, and Mormons are the latter-day custodians of that covenant while the Jews are currently in apostasy. Joseph Smith taught that he was a direct descendant of Joseph, son of Jacob (Israel), who is mentioned in the book of Genesis. The vast majority of Mormons also claim literal descent from Abraham.
How do they know they are Israelites you might ask? Most Mormons (myself included) receive a “Patriarchal Blessing,” which is suspiciously similar to a horoscope. In addition to being told your future, your lineage is also revealed. I was told that I was a direct descendent of Ephriam, son of Joseph, son of Jacob.
The LDS church has long condemned racial intermarriage. Brigham Young, the second prophet of the Mormon Church, declared death to certain inter-racial couples: “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God is death on the spot. This will always be so.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 10, page 110). Even today, the current (2011) priesthood manual for young men states: "We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background."
Thus, skin color has everything to do with Mormon theology. The darker it is, the less valiant you were before you were born. If you are white (and especially if you were born Mormon or Jewish), you were one of God’s favorite spirit children. Crazy? Yes. Racist? Definitely. And it is still believed by a majority of Mormons, despite the fact that the LDS Church does not explicitly discriminate today.