In the wake of the investigation into a much-publicized racist outburst at a recent Brigham Young University volleyball match, The Salt Lake Tribune is offering this look at developments in recent years surrounding racial relations at the Provo school and within the ranks of its church owner.
First, a brief history:
BYU is owned and operated by the 192-year-old Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has always welcomed Black individuals to join the faith. During founder Joseph Smith’s life, leaders ordained Black men to the church’s all-male priesthood.
Then, in 1852, Smith’s immediate successor, Brigham Young, instituted a ban barring Black men from holding the priesthood and Black women from entering the church’s temples.
That prohibition remained until 1978, when then-President Spencer W. Kimball lifted it.
But the pains of prejudice persist to this day — in the church and the wider culture.
Here are some significant Tribune stories and podcasts — by no means exhaustive — over the past decade that shed further light on this topic:
• Black Latter-day Saints wrestle with whether to vote for Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, or Mitt Romney, the first Latter-day Saint to top a major party’s presidential ticket. Read the story.
• The LDS Church releases an official essay, tracing the priesthood-temple ban back to Young. Read the story.
• Peter Johnson becomes the first African American general authority to address the faith’s worldwide General Conference. Read the story.
• Nelson denounces racism in a high-profile speech during General Conference and encourages members to “lead out” against prejudice. Read the story.
• The church mistakenly produces a Sunday school manual that repeats a disavowed teaching that “dark skin,” referenced in its signature scripture, the Book of Mormon, is a curse from God. Read the story.
• In a speech at BYU, Latter-day Saint apostle Dallin H. Oaks, next in line to head up the global faith, calls Black lives matter an “eternal truth all reasonable people should support.” Read the story.
• In the first speech by a Black BYU faculty member at a campus devotional in 14 years, sociology professor Ryan Gabriel urges Latter-day Saints to extinguish the “sin of racism.” Read the story.
• The Genesis Group, a support congregation for Black Latter-day Saints, celebrates its golden anniversary. Read the story. One of its co-founders, Darius Gray, perhaps the most beloved living Black Latter-day Saint, talks about worshipping in a mostly white faith. Listen to the podcast.
• A BYU professor makes dismissive remarks about Black Latter-day Saints and the former priesthood/temple ban. He later apologizes but questions remain about how widely those retracted views still linger in the church. Read the story. Listen to the podcast.
• Tracy Yeulande Browning becomes the first Black woman appointed to a churchwide presidency. Read the story.
• As part of its partnership with the NAACP, the church sends dozens of African American students to Ghana to learn about the historical connections between that West African nation and the U.S. civil rights movement. Read the story.