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Racism

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(C) Copyright 1998 By Massimo Franceschini all the rights reserved

There is an erroneous notion among some in the Christian world that Mormons are racist. The reason for this assertion is because, in the past, we didn't allow those with black skin to hold the priesthood. Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always treated black people with dignity and respect throughout it's entire history, the notion that we are inherently a racist religion still seems to exist in the minds of some.

From the beginning we have always said that the decision to withhold the priesthood from blacks was not one made by man, but was a directive from
God. Even so, there are those who can't comprehend why a loving God would treat one group of people different than another. However, to those who believe in the Bible, this shouldn't be a mystery. Therefore, to answer this question, all we need do is to analyze the scriptures to find out how and why God has dealt with different races of people.

The prophet Joseph Smith declared that it was the Lord who revealed to him that those who are descendants from Cain couldn't hold the priesthood. But why is this? What would be God's reasoning to exclude this group of people? To begin our quest for understanding we need to determine who are the descendants of Cain. In Genesis 4:9-15 we read: "And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said I know not: am I my brother's keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground and now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yeld unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. And Cain said unto the Lord, my punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold. thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive, and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall
come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. And the lord said unto him, therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain."

There are several interesting things on this scripture. First of all, Abel and Cain could not have been the only children Adam and Eve had at this time, otherwise who is it that Cain would be in fear of? It certainly couldn't have been his parents, Adam and Eve. Secondly, who taught Cain and Abel to offer up sacrifices to the Lord if it wasn't their parents? (see <a href = www.erols.com/crest/adam.htm> "Adam - the First" </a> for a fuller examination of this subject.)

Thirdly, and more importantly to our discussion, why did God put a mark upon Cain? The Biblical answer is so that others would be able to identify him and would not harm him. Furthermore, there was a curse added to the mark which would severely afflict anyone harming Cain. That clearly infers that there were more people living at the time Cain slayed his brother than just his parents. The scriptures plainly indicate that Cain was afraid of meeting these other people, and therefore, in order to protect him from them, the Lord set a mark upon him.

Since, at that time, there was no photo I.D. system, the mark which God set upon Cain was the only way that other people could identify him and prevent others from taking vengeance upon him. Although there are some disputes about what this mark was, many scholars and some traditions
among the Jews declare that the mark was that of a black skin, making him the first black man upon the earth. The point is that this interpretation is not just a Mormon idea, and such an notion did not originate with Joseph Smith.

But, if that is so, then how did those with black skin survive the flood? The Bible declares that after the flood only Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives were still alive. Then, who carried on the black race? The Bible doesn't answer this question, but fortunately, we have the Book of Abraham. Although there are many who don't believe in this extra-biblical set of scriptures, yet it does provide a part of the puzzle that we are trying to put together.

In Abraham 1:21-27 we learn, "Now this king of Egypt was a descendant from the loins of Ham, and was a partaker of the blood the Canaanites by
birth. From this descent sprang all the Egyptians, and thus the blood of the Canaanites was preserved in the Land. The Land of Egypt being first
discovered by a woman, who was the daughter of Egyptus, which in the Chaldeans signifies Egypt, which signifies that which is forbidden; when
this woman discovered the land it was under water, who afterward settled her sons in it; and thus, from Ham, sprang that race which preserved the
curse in the land. Now the first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was patriarchal. Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generation, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessing of the earth and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the priesthood. Now Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of priesthood."

From this scripture we know that the descendants of Ham, who were the founders of Egypt, were cursed concerning the priesthood. But why? The
answer is found in Genesis 9:18-27. "And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham and Japheth: and Ham is the father
of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread." In other words, all the descendants of the earth came
from these three people. Most Bible dictionaries declare that the Semitic people, including the Hebrews, came from Shem, the Gentiles, who make up most of the European nations, came from Japheth, and from Ham came those who were "dark-skinned" and who inhabited eastern and northern Africa, and the Palestine area "before the arrival of the Semitic races."

Continuing we read, "And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was
uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told this two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall be unto his brethren. And he said Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant."

The first question that comes to mind is, Why was Noah so angry with Ham? What was it that he did that was so terribly wrong? From our perspective this incident certainly seems like a very trivial thing. But even more puzzling is that Noah cursed his grandson, Canaan, instead of the boy's father. What would make such a righteous man like Noah do that?

The answers to these questions are the keys to understanding everything about this subject.

But first, we need to ask ourselves another question. Was the prophecy of his curse which Noah placed on his grandson, fulfilled? If the answer is "yes? then we have to conclude that Noah's words were the will of the Lord. Certainly, this was not because of any Mormon influence. Rather, Noah, being a high priest of God, made the curse and God honored it. Everybody can ponder this.

"According to ancient Jewish Midrashic tradition, it suggests that Ham did not just see his father laying naked, but actually uncovered him by stealing the garment he was wearing. According to the Midrash, this was the garment which God had made for Adam in the Garden of Eden and had been passed down through the patriarchs to Noah. This garment represented the rights and privileges of the first born, which included the right of holding
the patriarchal priesthood. By stealing it, Ham sought to gain this right for himself."

Also:

"The Midrashic sources fill in the details of this otherwise puzzling story. They suggest first that Ham was far more culpable than shown in the biblical account. He did not just see his father uncovered, he uncovered him --- and then stole the garment of the priesthood in an attempt to usurp the firstborn authority which had not been given to him legitimately, and to make permanent for Noah one of the precluding ritual conditions. An entire tradition traces the passing of the stolen garments from Ham to Cush to Nimrod to Esau, in whose time they were finally returned to Jacob and the rightful line."
(http://members.aol.com/stclairst/lossphd.html)

But why was Canaan cursed instead Ham? In my opinion, it's because Ham already held the Priesthood. Rather than taking the priesthood away from
Ham, Noah cursed Ham's descendants in regard to them holding the priesthood. It is interesting to note that it was the descendants of Ham who built the tower of Babel.

there were twelve tribes of Israel yet only one tribe was allowed to hold the priesthood -- the tribe of Levi. Isn't that discrimination? (Racism is nothing more than discrimination because on the color of one's skin). Isn't that being unfair to the men of the other eleven tribes?

But the discrimination goes even deeper than that. Only Aaron and the first born sons of HIS descendants were allowed to hold the position of High Priest. Isn't that also discrimination? Isn't that unfair to all the other Levite priests to deny them the opportunity to become a high priest just because they're not of Aaron's lineage?

Later on we see that when it was time for Abraham to give a wife to his beloved son Isaac, he said to his servant:" And I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of Heaven, and the god of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell. And my master made me swear, saying, thou shalt not take a wife to my son of the daughters of the Canaanites"

If we are to be consistent in our definitions, we would have to say that was a racist comment for Abraham to make, especially if the Canannites had black skin. And yet we know that Abraham was a righteous man and God was well pleased with him. The only conclusion we can therefore draw is
that God didn't think Abraham's actions were racist. Indeed, anyone would be hard pressed to show from the scriptures that God disapproved of Abraham for not wanting his son to marry a Canaanite.

But why didn't God consider such behavior as being racist? If the Canaanites were cursed as to holding the priesthood, and Isaac married a Canaanite woman, then his children would also inherit the curse, thereby destroying the promise God made to Abraham concerning his seed. And so, to insure that the priesthood would be passed on through succeeding generations, Abraham instructed his servant to swear his son would not marry a Canaanite, and God was pleased by that course or action.

In Genesis 27:46 we further read, "And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life, because of the daughters of Heth: If Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?"

Regardless of what color of skin the daughters of Heth had, can we not say that Rebecca's comments sound very racist? And yet nowhere in the Bible do we find that God was displeased by her comments.

Later on, in Genesis 28:1-2 we read, "And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Paddam-aram, to the house of Bethel, thy mother's father; and take thee a wife from thence"

From this statement some would conclude that Isaac also must have been a racist. But, if there was still a curse on the Canaanites, pronounced by Noah, a man of God, then it is clear that there was a good reason for his charge to Jacob. And that reason had nothing to do with a racist attitude on the part of Isaac. Instead, it had everything to do with the curse God had placed on the Canaanites. In fact, there are quite a few verses of scripture throughout the Bible where the Lord gives a distinct warning to avoid a marriage with the descendants of Ham. And how would they know who those descendants were if there was no difference in the color of their skin?

However, racism doesn't just happen to blacks. The term "racism" implies discrimination against a race of people. Throughout the Old Testament, the Lord also warned Israel not to marry or have close ties with other non-black nations. Such declarations would also constitute a racism statement. But notice that it is God who is making these remarks. The Israelites were only following the wishes of the Lord.

But some will say that was only done in Old Testament times. However, in the New Testament we also find the Lord giving similar commandments.
Speaking of the twelve specially chosen apostles we read, "These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the
Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not" (Matthew 10:5).

Why would Jesus tell them this? And then there is the story of how Jesus wouldn't say a word to a Canannite woman who implored Him to have mercy
on her daughter who was sick (Matthew 15:21-28). Was it because Jesus was a racist that he preached only to the Jews? (see my homepage for further analysis of this story.) If we use the same standard that others use to condemn Mormons of being racists, then we would have to say Jesus
was also a racist.

But the discrimination doesn't end there. In Acts 16:6-7 we read, "Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia"

There are two interesting things about this scripture. The first is that it was the Holy Ghost who forbid the apostles to preach the gospel to those who lived in Asia. Is this not discrimination? Does that mean the Holy Ghost is a racist? But the second interesting thing is that five chapters earlier, in Acts 11, we learn that the gospel was to be preached to the gentiles. Then why did the Holy Ghost forbid the apostles from preaching to those in Asia at that time? Since we know that eventually this did happen, it becomes clear that something other than racism is motivating these commandments. What are these other reasons? The Bible doesn't say. Therefore, since we don't know what was in God's mind when He gave these commandments, we're not in a position to know if they were really racist remarks or not.

By the same standard of reasoning, Mormons didn't allow black people to hold the priesthood because they were racists, but because they were
obeying a commandment from God. But why would God give such a commandment? We don't fully know. Therefore it is unreasonable for us to
conclude that it was because of a racist attitude on His or our part.

It should be noted that throughout the entire history of the Mormon church, there never was a time when the Saints had slaves -- black or otherwise. Joseph Smith never condoned or sanctioned treating one race of people differently than any other. In fact, he often spoke out against slavery. This is not the attitude of a racist.

However, the curse was not meant to last forever. As such, at some point it would have an end. Indeed, Joseph Smith clearly taught that the time would come when blacks would be permitted to hold the priesthood. In 1978 Spencer W. Kimball, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day had a revelation concerning this issue and was told by the Lord that the time had come for the priesthood to be given to those who had black skin.

Were the blacks happy about this? Some weren't. When they couldn't hold the priesthood, many blacks complained that the church leaders were bigoted and racists. But after the revelation many of these same people complained that the church couldn't be true because they changed one of their basic beliefs due to public pressure. Instead of being glad to receive the priesthood, they use the changed policy as evidence that Mormons were admitting they had been racists. So it seems they aren't genuinely interesting in knowing the truth. What does seem to be true is that, no matter what Mormons do, they find fault with it.


But that's their problem. As for us, we will keep following the commandments of God, whether others think we are racists or not.

From the Book "Mormonism and the Negro" by John J. Stewart.

In supposing that LDS policy in not allowing the Negro to hold the priesthood was the result, or influenced by, world prejudice against the Negro, and especially by the fact that Negroes were slaves in America at the time the true Church of Christ was restored. In believing this to be so, the apologizer not only shows an ignorance of historical facts, but he reveals a personal doubt in the validity of the inspiration and teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his successors in the presidency of the Chrch. He also betrays a lack of reasoning. A careful study of the life and teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith would show the fallacy of this supposition. Let us consider this for a moment:

The Prophet's whole life shows beyond doubt that he was not afraid of persecution nor public censure nor ridicule. He courageously taught his convictions of truth, no matter how much trouble and hardship it brought upon him. He even gave his life rather than yeld to such pressure or to compromise on truth. To suppose that he would curry the favor of the world by manifesting a prejudice against the Negro is an affront to this brave man, and to the known facts of history. Let us ask the apologizer this:" If Joseph Smith denied the Negro the right to the priesthood, as a means of currying favor with the world, or a s a means of satisfying his personal prejudice, then why did he allow the Negro to hold membership in the church at all?

Surely the popular thing would have been for him to proclaim that no Negro could join the LDS Church. We must keep in mind that in the USA in the 1830's the unpopular person in society was not the slave owner, but rather the abolitionist. By and large, slavery was still popular during the entire lifetime of the prophet 1805- 1844.

Rather than trying to win favor with non-mormons over the Negro question, what was really the conduct of the Prophet Joseph Smith in this matter?

In the early 1830's he wrote and published in the MESSENGER AND ADVOCATE, the church newspaper at Kirtland, Ohio, an editorial suggesting that leading men in the southern states should take measures to liberate the slaves, so that the Negro could enjoy the blessings of a free nation. He also invited an abolitionist to give a public speech in Kirtland, a t a time when abolitionists were generally hated in the North as well in the South.

Do you know what the immediate cause was of the latter day Saints being driven out of Indipendence, Jackson county, Missouri, when they lost hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property, and some of them forfeited their lives?

It was an editorial published in the LDS newspaper there, THE EVENING AND MORNING STAR, entitled, "Free People of Color," and an editorial filler in the same edition of the paper, in which the editor noted that: "In connection with the wonderful events of this age, much is doing towards abolishing slavery, and colonizing the Blacks in Africa."

This, remember, was published in the slave state of Missouri by a people already being persecuted. Was this done, do you suppose, to curry favor? As soon as this edition was published, the mobs, prodded by the MINISTERS OF THE PROTESTANT sects there, destroyed the church's printing office, tarred and feathered Bishop Edward Partridge, and began their destruction of the Saint' property, finally driving them from the state. In their ultimatum to the Mormons, demanding that they leave or be exterminated, the Missourians declared that the Mormons' policy of allowing the Negro to hold membership in the LDS Church "exhibits them in still more odious colors."

And at that time of this popular prejudice against the Negroes what did the prophet Joseph Smith declare?

"They have souls, and are subjects of salvation. Go into Cincinnati or any city, and find an educated Negro, who rides in his carriage, and you will see a man who has risen by the powers of his own mind to his exalted state of respectability. The slaves in Washington are more refined than many in high places, and the black boys will take the shine of many of those they brush and wait on." Evening and Morning star. Kirtland Ohio reprint July 1833 pp. 218-219

When at the age of 38, the prophet was seeking the presidency of the USA in 1844, 16 years before of the civil war, and when most of the nation still favored slavery, he strongly advocated that the Negroes be freed. In his political MANIFESTO, 'VIEWS ON THE POWERS AND POLICY OF GOVERNMENT", which was widely published in the spring of 1844, the prophet implored

"Petition also, ye goodly inhabitants of the slave states, your legislators to abolish slavery by the year 1850, or now, and save the abolitionist from reproach and ruin, infamy and shame. Pray congress to pay every man a reasonable price for his slaves out of the surplus revenue arising from the sale of public lands, and from the deduction of pay from the members of Congress. Break off the shackles from the poor black man, and hire them to labor like other human beings; for' an hour of virtuous liberty on earth is worth a whole eternity of bondage." B>H>Roberts " a Comprehensive History of the church" Vol 1 p. 328

The prophet had Negro servants and friends who were devoted to him, recognizing in him a champion of their race and rights.

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Five 1842–43, p.269
At five went to Mr. Sollars' with Elders Hyde and Richards. Elder Hyde inquired the situation of the negro. I replied, they came into the world slaves, mentally and physically. Change their situation with the whites, and they would be like them. They have souls, and are subjects of salvation. Go into Cincinnati or any city, and find an educated negro, who rides in his carriage, and you will see a man who has risen by the powers of his own mind to his exalted state of respectability. The slaves in Washington are more refined than many in high places, and the black boys will take the shine off many of those they brush and wait on.

 

The Prophet Joseph Smith's attitude toward black folks can be summed up in an incident that occurred while he was Mayor of Nauvoo; a Mormon city in Illinois on the banks of the Mississippi River, in 1842; many years before slavery had ended in America. A woman named Mary Frost Adams tells us what happened:

"While he was acting as mayor of the city, a colored man named Anthony was arrested for selling liquor on Sunday, contrary to law. He pleaded that the reason he had done so was that he might raise the money to purchase the freedom of a dear child held as a slave in a Southern State. He had been able to purchase the liberty of himself and his wife and now wished to bring his little child to their new home. Joseph said, 'I am sorry, Anthony, but the law must be observed, and we will have to impose a fine.'
The next day Brother Joseph presented Anthony with a fine horse, directing him to sell it, and use the money obtained for the purchase of the child." (Young Women's Journal, p.538)

The horse was Joseph's prized white stallion, and was worth about $500; a huge sum at the time. With the money from the sale, Anthony was able to purchase his child out of slavery.

The Prophet Joseph Smith tirelessly advocated the rights of black folks; in a time where it wasn't popular to do so; not even in the Northern States of the U.S. where slavery was illegal. As Mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois, a white man (a non-Mormon) had whipped a black man terribly for stealing some of his goods. The black man's name was Chism. Joseph asked Chism if he had stolen the good, and Chism replied he had. He charged Chism a small fine, and had the white man arrested for whipping Chism! This OUTRAGED white men all over the state, and in the neighboring state of Missouri, which was pro-slavery. Not long afterwards, Joseph Smith was again arrested on trumpted-up charges, and soon assassinated, along with his brother Hyrum, in a jail in Carthage, Illinois.

The Prophet Joseph Smith was a great advocate for the black people! He died because he not only wanted to end slavery, but he wanted blacks educated and given equal rights. For this cause, and others, he was hated.

This article was written by The Elijah Abel Society of Black Latter-day Saints; an independent organization of Black Mormons who wish to educate other Mormons, and the general public, about Black Mormon history and heritage.

Do you remember who were the people that kept the black people slaves for about two centuries? Just the protestants, even though the constitution prohibeted it. The black people were slaves in a protestant country and they justified this saying that black people had no soul! I call this real racism and this is proven by history, the civil war came because the protestant of south didn't want to give up slavery. The Mormons had anything to do with slavery and racism

If you want to go deeper go here http://www.ldslinks.com/Topics/Priesthood/blacks_and_priesthood.asp

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