Questions Raised


Excerpt from a New York Times Opinion article published August 18, 2012, ‘Why Race Is Still a Problem for Mormons’: 1

The church could begin leaving those problems behind if its leaders explained that their predecessors had confused their own racist views with God’s will and that the priesthood ban resulted from human error and limitations rather than a divine curse. Given the church’s ecclesiology, this step would be difficult.

Mormons have no reason to feel unusually ashamed of their church’s past racial restrictions, except maybe for their duration. Their church, like most other white American churches, was entangled in a deeply entrenched national sin.

Still, acknowledging serious errors on the part of past prophets inevitably raises questions about the revelatory authority of contemporary leaders. Such concerns, however, are not insurmountable for religious movements. One can look to the Bible for countless examples of patriarchs and prophets who acknowledged grave errors and moral lapses but still retained the respect of their people.

Likewise, the abiding love and veneration most Latter-day Saints have for their leaders would readily survive a fuller reckoning with their human frailties and flaws. The Mormon people need not believe they have perfect prophets, either past or present.


Excerpt from a September 17, 2019 BYU Devotional address by Russell M. Nelson: 2

My dear young friends, exaltation is not easy.  Requirements include a focused and persistent effort to keep God’s laws, and rigorously repenting when we don’t.  But the reward for doing so is far greater than anything we can imagine, because it brings us joy here, and “never-ending happiness” hereafter.

Thus, our commission as Apostles is to teach nothing but truth.  That commission does not give us the authority to modify divine law.

For example, let’s consider the definition of marriage.  In recent years, many countries, including the United States, have legalized same-sex marriage.  As members of the Church, we respect the laws of the land and abide by them, including civil marriage.  The truth is, however, that in the beginning—in the beginning—marriage was ordained by God!  And to this day it is defined by Him as being between a man and a woman.  God has not changed His definition of marriage.


Excerpt from a May 5 1947 Letter from the First Presidency to Virgil H. Sponberg, in Bennion papers: 3.

No special effort has ever been made to proselyte among the Negro race, and social intercourse between the Whites and the Negroes should certainly not be encouraged because of leading to intermarriage, which the Lord has forbidden. This move which has now received some popular approval of trying to break down social barriers between the Whites and the Blacks is one that should not be encouraged because inevitably it means the mixing of the races if carried to its logical conclusion.


Letter from the First Presidency to Dr. Lowry Nelson, July 17 1947: 4

“Your position seems to lose sight of the revelations of the Lord touching the preexistence of our spirits , the rebellion in heaven, and the doctrines that our birth into this life and the advantages under which we my be born, have a relationship in the life heretofore.

From the days of the Prophet Joseph even until now, it has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by any of the Church leaders, that the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel.

Furthermore, your ideas, as we understand them, appear to contemplate the intermarriage of the Negro and White races, a concept which has heretofore been most repugnant to most normal-minded people from the ancient patriarchs till now God’s rule for Israel, His Chosen People, has been endogenous. Modern Israel has been similarly directed.

We are not unmindful of the fact that there is a growing tendency, particularly among some educators, as it manifests itself in this area, toward the breaking down of race barriers in the matter of intermarriage between whites and blacks, but it does not have the sanction of the Church and is contrary to Church doctrine.


1 New York Times Opinion article published August 18, 2012, ‘Why Race Is Still a Problem for Mormons’ –
2 September 17, 2019 BYU Devotional address by Russell M. Nelson –
3 Ref. May 5 1947 Letter from the First Presidency to Virgil H. Sponberg, in Bennion papers,  quoted in Lester E. Bush, Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview, p. 42 –
4  Lowry Nelson & 1st Presidency Exchange –