‘Mormon Land’: Brigham Young, fearing interracial marriage, started the priesthood/temple ban on blacks, but there’s more to the story, says Utah historian

(Tribune file photo) Brigham Young, second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Numerous news stories and commentaries are appearing as the LDS Church celebrates the 40th anniversary of the lifting of the faith’s priesthood and temple prohibition on black Mormons.

But, for all the buzz, the former ban itself remains a mystery to many. For instance, it’s easy to say when it ended, June 8, 1978, but more difficult to pinpoint when it started. And who began it? And why?

Paul Reeve, the Simmons Professor of Mormon Studies at the University of Utah and author of the award-winning book “Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness,” knows the answers to those questions. The prohibition, he notes, traces back to the LDS Church’s second prophet, Brigham Young, spurred partly by his worries about interracial marriage, and was cemented in place by its sixth leader, Joseph F Smith. But there’s so much more to the story.

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