Council Meeting - June 4, 1879

President [John] Taylor drew attention to the subject of negroes receiving the priesthood, which matter was canvassed at the last meeting of the Council and by his directions the following statements were read:

. . .

[Meeting of May 31, 1879 was revised and included in these minutes.]

. . .

A blessing under the hands of Joseph Smith, Sen., upon Elijah Abel, who was born in Frederick County, Maryland, July 25, 1808.

Brother Abel, in the name of Jesus, I lay my hands upon they [thy] head to bless thee, and thou shalt be blessed even forever. I seal upon thee a father's blessing, because thou art an orphan, for thy father hath never done his duty toward thee, but the Lord hath had his eye upon thee, and brought thee through straits, and thou hast come to be reckoned with the saints of the Most High. Thou hast been ordained an Elder and annointed to secure thee against the power of the destroyer. Thou shalt see His power in laying waste the nations, and the wicked slaying the wicked, while blood shall run down the streets like water, and thy heart shall weep over their calamities. Angels shall visit thee, and thou shalt receive comfort. They shall call thee blessed, and deliver thee from thine enemies. They shall break thy bands and keep thee from affliction. They [Thy] name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Thou shalt travel in the East, and visit foreign countries, speak in all the various tongues, and thou shalt be able to teach different languages. Thou shall see all kingdoms, and confound the wisdom of this generation. Thy life shall be preserved to a good old age. Thou must seek first the kingdom of heaven and all blessings shall be added thereto. Thou shalt be made equal to thy brethren, and thy soul be white in eternity and thy robes glittering: thou shalt receive these blessings because of the covenants of thy fathers. Thou shalt save thy thousands, do much good, and receive all the power that thou needest to accomplish thy mission. These and all the blessings which thou canst desire in righteousness, I seal upon thee, in the name of Jesus. Amen. W.A. Cowdery, Assistant Recorder. (From page 88, Joseph Smith's Patriarchal Blessing Record)

Brother Joseph F. Smith said he thought Brother [Zebedee] Coltrin's memory was incorrect as to Brother Abel being dropped from the quorum of Seventies, to which he belonged, as Brother Abel has in his possession, (which also he had shown Brother J.F.S. [Joseph F. Smith]) his certificate as a Seventy, given to him in 1841, and signed by Elder Joseph Young, Sen., and A.P. Rockwood, and still later one given in this city. Brother Abel's account of the persons who washed and annointed him in the Kirtland Temple also disagreed with the statement of Brother Coltrin, whilst he stated that Brother Coltrin ordained him a Seventy. Brother Abel also states that the Prophet Joseph [Smith] told him he was entitled to the priesthood, (Brother Abel is understood to be an octeroon [octoroon]).

President [John] Taylor said it seemed that in his case it was probably like many other things done in the early days of the Church, such as baptism for the dead; at first, persons were baptized without records being taken and as the Lord gave further light and revelation things were done with greater order; but what had been done through lack of knowledge, that was not altogether correct in detail, was allowed to remain. He thought that probably it was so in Brother Abel's case; that he, having been ordained before the word of the Lord was fully understood, it was allowed to remain.

The matter [was] then dropped, with the understanding that Brother Joseph Young, Sen. be spoken to on the subject.

(Adam S. Bennion Papers, typed copy, in possession of LDS church)

Council Meeting, Thursday, August 22, 1895

President [Wilford] Woodruff informed the Council that Sister Jane James, a negress of long standing in the Church, had asked him for permission to receive her endowments, and that he and his counselors had told her that they could see no way by which they could accede to her wishes; and they asked the brethren present if they had any ideas on the subject favorable to her race.

President Joseph F. Smith told of brother Abel having been ordained a Seventy and afterwards a High Priest at Kirtland under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

President [George Q.] Cannon remarked that the Prophet Joseph [Smith] 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; and that any white man who mingled his seed with that of Cain should be killed, and thus prevent any of the seed of Cain's coming into possession of the priesthood.

Brother George F. Gibbs, the secretary, reminded President Woodruff of a sister Smith, whose first husband was a man named Berry, by whom she had two children - girls - who are now living, and it is held by those who knew Berry that he had negro blood in him. She separated from Berry and married a man named Smith who is not in the Church and by whom she had one child, a boy, that she now desires to be sealed to her second husband for whom her son will stand proxy, but that President Angus M. Cannon had refused to sign her recommend to the temple for the reason that she had married a man with negro blood in him and borne him children, and she had appealed to the First Presidency to have President Angus M. Cannon's action overruled, denying at the same time that her first husband was part negro.

It being understood that Mr. Berry was part negro, President [George Q.] Cannon raised the question: What would become of the girls? One at least of whom was in the Church, as they could not be admitted to the temple, and he thought it would be unfair to admit their mother and deny them this privilege. President Cannon thought too that to let down the bars in the least on this question would only tend to complications, and that it is perhaps better to let all such cases alone, believing, of course that the Lord would deal fairly with them all.

President Woodruff assented to this.

(George Albert Smith Papers, typed copy, Manuscripts Division, Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah)

Council Meeting, December 15, 1897

A letter from Elder Francis M. Lyman was read, dated at Vanceburg, Kentucky, 5th Instant, enclosing a letter from Elder S.P. Oldham, who asked Brother Lyman the following questions, and Brother Lyman forwarded it to be answered by the First Presidency:

"Can a man (white) be permitted to receive the priesthood, who has a wife who is either black or is tainted with negro blood?"

President [George Q.] Cannon said he had understood President [John] Taylor to say that a man who had the priesthood who would marry a woman of the accursed seed, that if the law of the Lord were administered upon him, he would be killed, and his offspring, for the reason that the Lord had determined that the seed of Cain should not receive the priesthood in the flesh; and that this was the penalty put upon Cain, because if he had received the priesthood the seed of the murderer would get ahead of the seed of Abel who was murdered. The point, President Cannon said, which President Taylor sought to make was that if a white man who had received the priesthood should have children by a negro woman, he could go back and act for his dead ancestors on his wife's side, and he therefore thought it would be improper for a man, as for instance the case referred to, to receive the priesthood for the reasons assigned as being those given by President Taylor.

While there was no formal action taken, this seemed to be the mind of the Council, President [Lorenzo] Snow adding that the way might be opened for the man referred to in the case under consideration to get a divorce from his present wife and marry a white woman, and he would then be entitled to the priesthood.

(George Albert Smith Papers, Manuscripts Division, Marriott Library, University of Utah)

Council Meeting, March 11, 1900

Letter from lra N. Hinckley read, stating that a man in Oasis named Church had received his patriarchal blessing in which he was told that he was of the lineage of Ephraim and that he should receive the priesthood and go on a mission But it is understood that he inherits some negro blood in him through his mother, and questions were being asked about the right of this party to hold the priesthood, some holding that he might do so provided the white blood predominates.

President [Lorenzo] Snow, commenting on this subject, said that he asked President Brigham Young on one occasion why it was that millions and millions of people were cursed with a black skin, and when, if ever, this curse would be re-moved? President Young explained it to him in this way, but whether the President had had this revealed to him or not he did not know, or whether he was giving his own personal views of what had been told him by the Prophet Joseph [Smith]. He said that when Cain slew Abel he fully understood that the effects would not end with the killing of his brother, but that it extended to the spirits in eternity. He said that in the spirit world people were organized as they are here. There were patriarchs standing at the head of certain classes of spirits, and there were certain relationships existing which affected their coming into the world to take tabernacles; as, for instance, when Abel came into the world it was understood by Cain that the class of people he presided over as a prince, if they ever came into the world in the regular way, they would have come thru him. So with Cain, he was a prince presiding over a vast number of a certain class of spirits, and it was natural that they should come through him, if at all, and therefore when Cain slew Abel he understood that the taking of his brother's life was going to deprive the spirits over whom he presided from coming into the world, perhaps for thousands and thousands of years; hence the sin was immense because the effects were immense. Then there was this understanding when the Lord executed judgement upon Cain; the spirits under his leadership still looked up to him, and rather than forsake him they were willing to bear his burdens and share the penalty imposed upon him. This was understood when the curse was pronounced upon him, and it was understood that this curse would remain upon his posterity until the class of spirits presided over by Abel should have the privilege of coming into the world and taking tabernacles, and then the curse would be removed.

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; if it were otherwise the slayer would have advantage over the slain. President Cannon further remarked that it would seem that there was a class of spirits who had to take such bodies for the reason that Ham introduced this blood through the ark by marrying a woman of the accused seed named Egyptus.

(George Albert Smith Papers, Manuscripts Division, Marriott Library, University of Utah)

Saturday, August 18, 1900

Presidents [Lorenzo] Snow, [George Q.] Cannon, and [Joseph F.] Smith at the office.

Letter read from president Ben E. Rich, conveying information that the President of the South Carolina Conference, G.R. Humphreys, had accidentally run across a village of negroes who were members of our Church and that two of the males had been ordained to the priesthood by the elder (Bond) who had baptized them, and Elder Humphreys wanted to know what should be done about this. The question was now considered.

President [George Q.] Cannon informed President [Lorenzo] Snow that President [Brigham] Young had held to the doctrine that no man tainted with negro blood was eligible to the priesthood; that President [John] Taylor held to the same doctrine, claiming to have been taught it by the Prophet Joseph Smith. President Cannon read from the Pearl of Great Price showing that negroes were debarred from the priesthood; also that Enoch in his day called upon all people to repent save it were the descendants of Cainan.

President Snow intimated to President Cannon that this was one of the questions which it was understood would come up before the Council of First Presidency and Apostles for discussion the first time there should be a full attendance.

President Cannon remarked to President Snow that as he regarded it the subject was really beyond the pale of discussion, unless, he, President Snow, had light to throw upon what had already been imparted.

Brother [George F.] Gibbs now reminded President Cannon that President [Joseph F.] Smith had on a previous occasion related something going to show how the full blooded negro came through the flood which had not to his knowledge appeared in our records, and suggested that President Smith be asked to repeat it.

Upon being invited to do so President Smith said that he had been told that the idea originated with the Prophet Joseph [Smith], but of course he could not vouch for it. It was this: That the woman named Egyptus was in the family way by a man of her own race before Ham took her to wife, and that Cainan was the result of that illicit intercourse.

This subject was now dropped without President Snow intimating that the subject would be further considered.

(George Albert Smith Papers, Manuscripts Division, Marriott Library, University of Utah)

Thursday, January 2, 1902

Brother [Rudger] Clawson reporting his visit to Sevier Stake said that while at Richfield he learned that a young man had married a woman who Was one-quarter negro,and now that one of his sons is about to marry, his intended wife wanted to know if the fact of his having inherited negro blood would be a bar to his receiving the priesthood and endowments.

President [Joseph F.] Smith in replying to this question said that presidents [Brigham] Young and [John] Taylor were emphatic in denying to any person receiving the priesthood or endowments who had negro blood in their veins, and he further said that a man named Abel, an octoroon, and who had married a quadroon, applied to President Young for his endowments, he having been ordained a Seventy and received his patriarchal blessing in the days of the Prophet Joseph [Smith], but President Young put him off, and that Brother Abel failed to get his wish gratified by the President. It appeared that a promise was made to him in his patriarchal blessing to the effect that he should be the welding link between the black and white races, and that he should hold the initiative authority by which his race should be redeemed. He renewed his application to receive his endowments time after time to President Taylor, who at last submitted it to this Council, resulting in a decision unfavorable to Brother Abel. After his [John Taylor's] death the wife of Isaac James (known as Aunt Jane) asked to receive her own endowments and to be sealed; but President Woodruff, Cannon, and Smith decided that this could not be done, but decided that she might be adopted into the family of the Prophet Joseph Smith as a servant, which was done, a special ceremony having been prepared for the purpose. But Aunt Jane was not satisfied with this, and as a mark of her dissatisfaction she applied again after this for sealing blessings, but of course in vain.

Brother John Henry Smith remarked that it seemed to him that persons in whose veins the white blood predominated should not be barred from the temple.

President Smith, replying to this, referred to the doctrine taught by President Young which he (the speaker) said he believed in himself, to the effect that the children of Gentile parents, in whose veins may exist a single drop of the blood of Ephraim, might be all pure-blooded Gentiles excepting one, and that one might extract all the blood of Ephraim from his parents' veins, and be actually a full-blooded Ephra[i]mite. He also referred to the case of a man named Billingsby, whose ancestor away back married an Indian woman, and whose descendants in every branch of his family were pure whites, with one exception, and that exception was one pure blooded Indian in every branch of the family. The speaker said he mentioned this case because it was in line with President Young's doctrine on the subject; and the same had been found to be the case with stockmen engaged in the improvement of breeds. Assuming therefore this doctrine to be sound, while the children of a man in whose veins may exist a single drop of negro blood, might be entirely white, yet one of his descendants might turn out to be a pronounced negro. And the question in President Smith's mind was, when shall we get light enought [enough] to determine each case on its merits? He gave it as his opinion that in all cases where the blood of Cain showed itself, however slight, the line should be drawn there; but where children of tainted parents were found to be pure Ephraimites, they might be admitted to the temple. This was only an opinion, however, the subject would no doubt be considered later.

Brother Clawson regar[d]ed this as an answer to the question and expressed himself satisfied with it.

(George Albert Smith Papers, Manuscripts Division, Marriott Library, University of Utah)

EXTRACT FROM GEORGE F. RICHARD[S]'S RECORD OF DECISIONS BY THE COUNCIL OF THE FIRST PRESIDENCY AND THE TWELVE APOSTLES. (No date is given but the next decision in order, Number 4, is dated February 8, 1907)

Number 3 - The descendants of Ham may receive baptism and confirmation but no one known to have in his veins negro blood, (it matters not how remote a degree) can either have the Priesthood in any degree or the blessings of the Temple of God; no matter how otherwise worthy he may be.

(George Albert Smith Papers, Manuscripts Division, Marriott Library, University of Utah)

Council Meeting - May 27, 1908

Interesting letter read from President H.L. Steed of the South African Mission ... In some cities, he says, the natives have become interested in the gospel, and elders have held meetings with them. This however he had not encouraged, as the elders could not meet the demands made upon them by the white population, and he asked to be instructed on the question of laboring among the natives, by whom he evidently meant negroes.

The question of preaching the gospel to the native negro population was now considered, President [Joseph F.] Smith remarking that all we could do for that class of people was to preach the gospel of repentence [repentance] to them, as they would be entitled to Church membership, and where they receive the gospel they should be encouraged to form branches composed of their own class of people.

(Adam S. Bennion Papers)

Wednesday, August 26, 1908

Letter read from Elder Ralph A. Badger, late President of the South African Mission, dated this city 17th Inst., asking in substance the following questions: (1) What shall be done where people tainted with negro blood embrace the Gospel, the writer going on to say that such people are very numerous in South Africa and some are now members of the Church whose children associate with those of the white race who are members of the Church, the latter objecting to this being done. (2) The writer wished to know if the Gospel should be preached to the native tribes, and states that an old native missionary had become a member of the Church at Queenstown, and is anxious to start an active missionary work among the natives; that the son of a Zulu chief had also been baptized who had requested that missionary work be done among the Zulus.

With reference to the first question President [Joseph F.] Smith remarked that he did not know that we could do anything more in such cases than refer to the rulings of Presidents [Brigham] Young, [John] Taylor, [Wilford] Woodruff, and other presidencies, on this question, amounting to this, that people tainted with negro blood may he admitted to Church membership only. In this connection President Smith referred to Brother Abel, who was ordained a Seventy by Joseph Young [sic; Zebedee Coltrin], in the days of the Prophet Joseph [Smith], to whom Brother [Joseph] Young issued a Seventies certificate; but this ordination was declared null and void by the Prophet himself. Later Brother Abel appealed to President [Brigham] Young for the privilege of receiving his endowments and to have his wife and children sealed to him, a privilege President Young could not grant. Brother Abel renewed this application to President [John] Taylor with the same result, and still the same appeal was made to President Woodruff afterwards, who of course upheld the position taken by Presidents Young and Taylor. He later wrote to President Smith that he had received a patriarchal blessing under the hands of Father Joseph Smith, and he said he inferred that the blessing conveyed the idea that he was to be the connecting link between his race and those holding the priesthood. But notwithstanding the fact that he was a staunch member of the Church, Presidents Young, Taylor, and Woodruff all denied him the blessings of the House of the Lord. The same efforts he said had been made by Aunt Jane to receive her endowments and be sealed to her husband and have her children sealed to their parents and her appeal was made to all the Presidents from President [Brigham] Young down to the present First Presidency. But President [George Q.] Cannon conceived the idea that, under the circumstances, it would be proper to permit her to go to the temple to be adopted to the Prophet Joseph Smith as his servant and this was done. This seemed to ease her mind for a little while but did not satisfy her, and she still pleaded for her endowments. President [Joseph F.] Smith then remarked that if we take this position without any reserve and refer such people to the curse pronounced upon Cainan, giving them to understand that they are descendants of Cainan, that the curse has not been removed, and that all of his race are deprived of the rights of the priesthood because of the decree of the Almighty, and until the Lord sees fit to remove that curse it would be for them to content themselves with the privilege of receiving the First Principles of the Gospel, thereby enabling them to become members of the Church, and thereafter live righteous lives, which will bring them far greater salvation in the Kingdom of God than any other so-called Christian religion is capable of doing for them. And in closing the President added that where the priesthood may have been bestowed upon men tainted with this blood, in all such cases their ordinations must be regarded as invalid.

Brother [Francis M.] Lyman said he fully endorsed this position, and remarked that whatever the Lord has in store for the negro race it must be received through obedience to the Gospel, and it will therefore be for them to receive the Gospel of repentance as circumstances may admit, and be satisfied with that portion of it, and prove faithful to it.

As an item of information, the truth of which however President Smith said he could not vouch for, although it had come to him through the late President Jesse N. Smith, who claimed that it had come to him indirectly from the Prophet [Joseph Smith], that Ham's wife was an adulteress, and that she went into the ark pregnant from the seed of Cain, and in that way brought that blood through the flood, from whom sprang the early inhabitants of Egypt. Also that Ham finding that he was deprived of the rights of the priesthood, and becoming desperate in consequence of his condition, sought to emasculate his father and brothers and thereby usurp the rights of the priesthood for himself and posterity which wicked attempt renewed and intensified the curse of God upon him and his seed, in that they should be deprived of the priesthood and become servants of servants forever.

President [John R.] Winder moved that the Council endorse the former rulings of the first Presidency, which are the rulings of this Council. In connection with this motion it was understood that our Elders should not take the initiative in proselyting among the negro people, but if negroes or people tainted with negro blood apply for baptism themselves they might be admitted to Church membership in the understanding that nothing further can be done for them. It was also understood that the secretary was to get together the rulings of former councils on this question, also the public utterances of President [Brigham] Young and others on the same subject.

Motion put and carried.

(George Albert Smith Papers, Manuscripts Division, Marriott Library, University of Utah)

Wednesday, September 2, 1908

On the question of negro blood, the secretary presented extracts from council minutes, dated August 22, 1895, March 11, 1900, and extracts from Discourses by President [Brigham] Young, dated October 9, 1859, March 8, 1863, August 19, 1866, as follows:


["]You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind. The first man that committed the odious crime of killing one of his brethren will be cursed the longest of any [one] of the children of Adam. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed[,] and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark on him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race--that they should be the "servant of servants," and they will be[,] until that curse is removed, and the abolitionist cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree. How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? That curse will remain upon them, and they never can hold the priesthood or share in it untill all [the] other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the priesthood and the keys thereof. Until the last ones of the residue of Adam's children are brought up to that favorable position, the children of Cain cannot receive the first ordinances of the priesthood. They were the first that were cursed, and they will be the last from whom the curse will be removed. When the residue of the family of Adam come up and receive their blessings then the curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will receive blessings in like proportion.["]

[Journal of Discourses 7:290-91; Great Salt Lake City]

President Brigham Young, March 8, 1863:

["]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[,] of the law under God [sic; under the law of God,] is death on the spot. This will always be so.["]

[Journal of Discourses 10:110; Great Salt Lake City]

President Brigham Young, August 19, 1866:

["]Why are so many [of the] inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers' rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which they are not now entitled to [sic; which we now are entitled to].["]

[Journal of Discourses 11:272; Great Salt Lake City]

(George Albert Smith Papers, Manuscripts Division, Marriott Library, University of Utah)

Thursday, November 10, 1910 - Council Meeting

Letter read from President B.A. Hendricks of the South African Mission, dated October 4, addressed to President Rudger Clawson, stating in substance that a serious race question was confronting himself and associates, missionaries, on account of the doctrine having been taught to some of the negro saints that they could perform certain ordinances in the House of the Lord, and he desired an answer to this question: "Is it possible for a promiscuously bred white and negro to be baptized for the dead?" adding that a great many blacks had become members of the Church in South Africa, and were good, honest people. President Hendricks also stated that by asking this question he did not wish it to be inferred that he and his fellow missionaries were directing their work among the white race.

President [Joseph F.] Smith remarked that he saw no reason why a negro should not be permitted to have access to the baptismal font in the temple to be baptized for the dead, inasmuch as negroes are entitled to become members of the Church by baptism.

(George Albert Smith Papers, Manuscripts Division, Marriott Library, University of Utah)

Council Meeting - October 29, 1936

Letter read from President W. Francis Bailey of the Hawaiian Mission, stating that Brother William Pakale, a priest, and Brother John L. Pea, who have recently been discovered to be one-eighth negro, have heretofore officiated in performing some baptisms and other ordinances. President Bailey asks for a ruling as to what should be done in such cases.

After some discussion of the matter, Elder Stephen L. Richards moved that the matter be referred to Elder George Albert Smith, who will attend the approaching Oahu Stake Conference, with instructions that in the event he should find that a considerable number of people are involved, we assuming the authority was given to those brethren to officiate in these ordinances, that ratification of their acts be authorized. In the event he should discover that there are only one or two affected, and that the matter can be readily taken care of, it may be advisable to have re-baptism performed.

Motion seconded by Brother [Melvin J.] Ballard and unanimously approved.

(Adam S. Bennion Papers)

Council Meeting, January 25, 1940

Attention was called to a postscript on a letter from President Roscoc C. Cox of the Hawaiian Mission, calling attention to a recommendation he had received for ordination of two boys to the office of Deacon, the mother of these boys having some Negro blood in her veins.

President [J. Reuben] Clark explained that this matter has come up at various times in the past, that is the question of what should be done with those people who are faithful in the Church who are supposed to have some Negro blood in their veins.

President Clark said at his request the clerk of the Council had copied from the old records of the Council discussions that have been had in the past on this subject. He said that he was positive that it was impossible with reference to the Brazilians to tell those who have Negro blood and those who have not, and we are baptizing these people into the Church. The question also arises pertaining to the people in South Africa where we are doing missionary work, and in the Southern States, also in the islands of the Pacific.

President Clark suggested that this matter be referred to the Twelve who might appoint a sub-committee to go into the matter with great care and make some ruling or re-affirm whatever ruling has been made on this question in the past as to whether or not one drop of negro blood deprives a man of the right to receive the priesthood.

Brother [John A.] Widtsoe moved the adoption of President Clark's suggestion.

Motion seconded and unanimously approved.

(George Albert Smith Papers, Manuscripts Division, Marriott Library, University of Utah)

Council Meeting - October 24, 1946

Letter read from June B. Sharp of the South African Mission regarding a letter that has been forwarded to him by the office of the First Presidency and the correspondence that President Sharp had had with O.J. Umordak of Afaha Ofiong, Mbiaso Post Office, Uyo District, Nigeria, in which Mr. Umordak pleads for missionaries to be sent to Nigeria and also asks for literature regarding the Church. These people are Africans of the black race. President Sharp asks if he should comply with [the] man's request to send literature to him.

After some discussion regarding our responsibility in proclaiming the Gospel to the world, Council decided to give the matter further consideration before making reply.

(Adam S. Bennion Papers)

Council Meeting - January 30, 1947

Letter read from President A. Reed Halverson of the New Zealand Mission stating that there has been an instance or two in the mission where men with a trace of Negro blood have been ordained to the Priesthood and are now taking part. He asks whether or not a person who has colored blood in his veins may receive the Priesthood and what should be done about these brethren who have already been ordained.

In discussing this matter it was the sentiment of the Brethren that president Halverson should be informed that no one should be ordained to the Priesthood who is known to have Negro blood in his veins, and that if any one has been so ordained, if it is admitted or otherwise established, he should be instructed not to attempt to use the Priesthood in any other ordinations.

(Adam S. Bennion Papers)

Council Meeting - August 28, 1947

Letter read from Elder John A. Widstoe calling attention to the engagement of a young couple, members of the Church, the sister having one thirty-second of negro blood in her veins. Brother Widstoe raises the question as to whether in such cases the individual having Negro blood might be recommended to the temple for marriage. Brother Widstoe states that he informed the couple of the ruling of the Church in the past that any one having negro blood in his veins cannot receive the Priesthood or go to the temple. Council approved the attitude indicated by Brother Widstoe.

(Adam S. Bennion Papers)

Council Meeting - October 9, 1947

Letter read from Evan A. Borrowman, a stake missionary in the Los Angeles stake, asking questions regarding the Church's attitude toward the negro. Attention was also called to correspondence with O.J. Umondak of Nigeria, Africa, asking that missionaries be sent to the people of that land. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith called attention to the report of the Council of the Twelve under the date of April 23, 1940, reporting on an assignment given by this Council regarding permitting a person to receive the Priesthood who has any degree of negro blood, at which time it was the recommendation of the Twelve that the ruling of the past being that a person with the slightest degree of negro blood cannot receive the Priesthood.

President [J. Reuben] Clark called attention to the sentiment among many people in this country to the point that we should break down all racial lines, as a result of which sentiment negro people have acquired an assertiveness that they become impudent. President Clark again repeated what he had previously said on a number of occasions that in South America, and particularly Brazil, we are entering into a situation in doing missionary work among these people where it is very difficult if not impossible to tell who has negro blood and who has not. He said that if we are baptizing Brazilians we are almost certainly baptizing people of negro blood, and that if the Priesthood is conferred upon them, which no doubt is, we are facing a very serious problem. President Clark said that his heart bleeds for the negroes, that he had had them in his home and some of them were very fine people, that he felt we should give them every right and blessing to which they are entitled. He said he was wondering whether we could not work out a plan whereby, while not conferring the Priesthood as such upon them, we could give them opportunity to participate in the work certainly of the Aaronic Priesthood grades.

In connection with this discussion Brother [Joseph] Anderson, at the request of the First Presidency, read to the Council ex[c]erpts from minutes of the Council meeting held May 28, 1879 and June 4, 1879, in which this matter of ordaining to the priesthood brethren with colored blood in their veins was discussed at considerable length and which minutes give among other things [a] copy of a blessing under the hands of Joseph Smith Sr. upon Elijah Abel, a negro.

The suggestion was made that a compilation be made for the Brethren of the Council of all material that can be brought together upon this subject. Elder Stephen L Richards moved that this material be prepared under the direction of the First Presidency in any way they may see fit. Motion seconded and unanimously approved.

It was decided to postpone answer to the letter from Brother Borrowman and also to correspondence from O.J. Umondak of Nigeria, Africa, until the material regarding the negro question has been assembled and the Brethren have had an opportunity to look it over and digest it.

President George F. Richards presented to the Council a question as to whether or not there would be any objection to a Brother Hope and his family (negroes), faithful members of the Church who live in Cincin[n]ati, receiving patriarchal blessing. On motion, duly seconded, it was the decision of the Council that negroes who are faithful members of the Church are entitled to patriarchal blessings.

(Adam S. Bennion Papers)




June 8, 1978

To All General and Local Priesthood Officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Throughout the World

Dear Brethren:

As we have witnessed the expansion of the work of the Lord over the earth, we have been grateful that people of many nations have responded to the message of the restored gospel, and have joined the Church in ever-increasing numbers. This, in turn, has inspired us with a desire to extend to every worthy member of the Church all of the privileges and blessings with the gospel affords.

Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God's eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood, and witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the priesthood has been withheld, we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren, spending many hours in the Upper Room of the [Salt Lake] Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance.

He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows therefrom, including the blessings of the temple. Accordingly, all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color. Priesthood leaders are instructed to follow the policy of carefully interviewing all candidates for ordination to either the Aaronic or the Melchizedel Priesthood to insure that they meet the established standards for worthiness.

We declare with soberness that the Lord has now made known His will for the blessings of all His children throughout the earth who will hearken to the voice of His authorized servants, and prepare themselves to receive every blessing of the gospel.

Sincerely yours,

Spencer W. Kimball

N. Eldon Tanner

Marion G. Romney

The First Presidency

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