In the 19th century, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints banned men and women of African descent from receiving the priesthood and temple ordinances. These sacred rites are not only believed to be necessary for salvation, but also for families to be eternally united. Although the ban was belatedly lifted in 1978, an unapologetic legacy of racism persists in the church today.
Erroneous pseudo-doctrinal theories and justifications for the ban are continually shared among members trying to reconcile the implicit immorality of the policy with the church’s doctrine of divinely inspired leadership. Other prejudiced teachings and cultures, such as the discouragement of interracial marriage and the underrepresentation of racial minorities in church leadership, are also perpetuated through the legacy of racism associated with the ban.
The church’s scriptures state that “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34), “all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33), and we “are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). The priesthood and temple ban was nondoctrinal, un-Christian and unabashedly racist. Likewise, the racist cultures and teachings that followed the ban are nondoctrinal and un-Christian.
LDS President Russell M. Nelson’s recent message to the membership denounced racism in all of its forms. However, the message fell short of acknowledging and apologizing for the institutional racism, both past and present, within the church.
As a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I humbly ask the First Presidency to publicly acknowledge and apologize for the priesthood and temple ban and the history and legacy of racism in the church.
Benjamin Hoose, Springville