‘Mormon Land’: Scholar explains how a recent discovery sheds new light on early black converts and the priesthood ban that later took hold

Early Latter-day Saint black convert Elijah Able, sometimes spelled Abel.

Knowing who ordained whom to the priesthood in the early days of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is seldom of interest to anyone beyond curious descendants and detail-obsessed researchers.

But a recent discovery solving the mystery surrounding the ordination of Elijah Able (sometimes spelled Abel), one of the most famous black converts in the faith’s fledgling years, excited historians and helped shed additional light on a religion with a tortuous track record on the issue of race.

W. Paul Reeve, 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,” documented the discovery and discusses what it means and why it matters.

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