A useful history of black Mormons: 7-6-18
July 06, 2018
The history of African-Americans in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, is odd, indeed. Odd and heartbreaking -- and eventually hopeful.
Now there's a way to learn more about that strange mix of history. The University of Utah, partnering with the J. Willard Marriott Library, has created a public history project, “Century of Black Mormons,” a database that illuminates the history of black members, according to this press release from the school.
By the way, the "century" that's the focus of the project is 1830-1930. From the mid-1830s until 1978 the church refused to ordain blacks to ministry. The church website to which I linked you in this paragraph explains the 1978 change this way:
"In June 1978, after 'spending many hours in the Upper Room of the [Salt Lake] Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance,' Church President Spencer W. Kimball, his counselors in the First Presidency, and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles received a revelation. 'He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come,' the First Presidency announced on June 8. The First Presidency stated that they were 'aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us' that 'all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood.' The revelation rescinded the restriction on priesthood ordination."
No doubt it was difficult for both black and white Mormons to understand the early ban and the later change. And I'd say it's close to impossible for those outside that church to make sense of it all.
But it's a healthy thing to study the history of one's own religion and the people who helped to guide it. It can be a reminder that the decisions we make today might someday be seen as terribly wrong-headed. And that might be really useful knowledge to have.
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WORSHIPING IN THE WOODS
Across the country, Christian congregations are meeting outdoors as part of the Wild Church Network, RNS reports. "The worshipers," the story says, "consider the moose, bears, deer and foxes as part of their small congregation." And I bet fewer of those wild congregants argue about fine points of theology.