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Mormon Church explains, finally disavows ban on black priests

by Brad A. Greenberg

December 10, 2013 | 11:33 am

The Mormon Church lifted its ban on black priests 35 years ago. But not until Friday had it offered much explanation or bothered to disavow the ban. That is when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posted on its website "Race and the Priesthood."

In it, the church basically blames social contexts, but does take a strong stand against past racism:

In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood, though thereafter blacks continued to join the Church through baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Following the death of Brigham Young, subsequent Church presidents restricted blacks from receiving the temple endowment or being married in the temple. Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church.

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Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.

The Mormon Church's historic treatment of blacks has marred the church's reputation, even among those born long after the priest ban was lifted in 1978. It's just one of those things that non-Mormons hear about and don't forget (like posthumous baptism). Of course, Christians once used the Bible to justify slavery, so ...

Regardless of the reasons for delay and the effects that will follow, this seems like an important moment for the Mormon Church. Much more on the statement and reactions to it from Peggy Fletcher Stack at the Salt Lake Tribune.

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