Latest from Mormon Land: Remembering the Black woman sealed to the Prophet Joseph as a ‘servitor’

Also: What else Relief Society counselor J. Anette Dennis said in her talk on priesthood; planned temples run into opposition; missionary couple die.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Jane Manning James was sealed to church founder Joseph Smith as a "servitor."

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Jane’s quest

The prohibition that for nearly 130 years prevented Black Latter-day Saints from being ordained is often referred to as the “priesthood ban.”

But, in reality, it was a temple ban, too, barring not only men but also women from the faith’s holiest buildings and its most sacred rituals.

Witness, for instance, the story of Jane Manning James, perhaps the best-known Black female Latter-day Saint this side of Gladys Knight.

Some 130 years ago this month, this committed convert had one of her deepest desires realized. Partly.

For decades, James, who had worked in the Nauvoo home of church founder Joseph Smith and his wife Emma, had pleaded to receive her temple endowment and sealing — despite the priesthood/temple ban. After all, she was a pious, faithful member who had performed baptisms for the dead in temples.

Finally, on May 18, 1894, church leaders relented and permitted her to be sealed to Joseph — not as an adopted child, as she had requested, but rather as a “servitor.”

“James was not allowed to be present at the ceremony, which was performed in the Salt Lake Temple,” historian Quincy Newell writes on the Century of Black Mormons website. “Instead, Zina D.H. Young and Joseph F. Smith served as proxies.”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Zandra Vranes sings in front of a statue of Jane Manning James before laying flowers at her feet at This Is the Place Heritage Park in 2022.

Newell, author of “Your Sister in the Gospel,” notes this “ritual innovation” failed to satisfy James, who continued to press for an adoption sealing the remainder of her life.

It never happened.

James received her endowment and family sealings by proxy in 1979, seven decades after her death on April 16, 1908.

And 46 years ago next month, on June 8, 1978, the church announced an end to the racist priesthood/temple ban.

‘All that we have been given’

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) J. Anette Dennis, first counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, speaks during the filming of a worldwide Relief Society devotional in the Relief Society Building in Salt Lake City. It was broadcast Sunday, March 17, 2024.

By now, observant Latter-day Saints are well aware of the following assertion made by women’s leader J. Anette Dennis during a worldwide Relief Society devotional:

“There is no other religious organization in the world that I know of,” Dennis said back in March, “that has so broadly given power and authority to women.”

They may be less — or not at all — familiar, however, with other statements in her sermon. Here is a sampling:

• “[God] will never tire in his efforts to help us, and he will never exhaust his patience with us.”

• “My dear sisters, you belong to a church which offers all its women priesthood power and authority from God.”

• “The adversary wants to focus our attention on what we haven’t been given and blind us to all that we have been given.”

Read the full text of Dennis’ speech.

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: Losing community?

Gone are roadshows, pageants, sports leagues, cultural celebrations and more. Are Latter-day Saints losing their communitarian roots amid this evolution to a home-centered, church-supported dynamic that emphasizes individual covenants?

Listen to the podcast.

How to shape the world

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) General authority Seventy Edward Dube, far right, participates in a panel at a conference in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, on May 19, 2024.

The golden rule — to “love thy neighbor as thyself” — is a silver bullet for building a better world.

So said Edward Dube, the first Black Latter-day Saint to be named to the Presidency of the Seventy, in an address at a recent African conference in Zimbabwe on law and religion.

“Those who grasp this truth will shape the world,” Dube said from his native country, according to a news release . “It’s your shared aspirations that will indeed bring the change that you yearn for in this world.”

From The Tribune

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Latter-day Saint missionary couple Mary Hardin and her husband, Paul Hardin. They died from a car crash.

• A senior missionary couple were killed in a car crash in California. This brings to three to the number of publicly reported deaths this year of full-time Latter-day Saint proselytizers.

• Big holdings in Big Tech — and other stocks — continue to deliver big gains to the church’s publicly reported investment portfolio.

• From Nevada to Wyoming to Texas and beyond, the church’s temple-building binge sometimes divides neighborhoods, pitting neighbor against neighbor.

(Rachel Aston | Special to The Tribune) The proposed site of a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple seen from Lone Mountain in northwest Las Vegas, Monday, May 6, 2024.

• Another one bites the dust — or is about to — as crew prepare to tear down a historic Latter-day Saint meetinghouse.

• With kids in tow, these tough, talented and dedicated Latter-day Saint women are “serving” and spending time in the “kitchen” — but this is a whole new game (re: pickleball) and it reflects a whole new kind of feminism. Just ask our new guest columnist, Rebbie Brassfield.

• An op-ed argues Latter-day Saint men should want women “in the room where it happens.”

(Courtesy) The meetinghouse pickleball gang: Ashley DeHart, left, Becca Preator, Rebbie Brassfield, Amanda Beardneau, Beth McLean, Julie Davidson.

• Eternal polygamy? Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess explores how temple sealing practices became a raw deal for women.

• Remembering a Latter-day Saint feminist, lifelong Democrat and social justice warrior.

(Courtesy) Utah community activist Grethe Ballif Peterson, 1932-2024.