There are a lot of misconceptions in the world when it comes to Mormons and black people. Many believe the Mormon church to be racist. This is not the case at all. You can check the LDS Newsroom’s Africa Fact Sheet for full statistics, but here are some interesting things to note:
- There are 318,947 members of the church in Africa
- There are 18 missions in Africa, meaning there are about 2,000 missionaries on the continent
- The Mormon church provided aid and relief to over 46 million people in Africa from 2003 – 2010
Needless to say, Mormons don’t have anything against black people and the Mormon church does not have an anti-black policy.
However, this was not always the case. When Joseph Smith founded the Mormon church, part of the restoration of the full gospel was restoring the Priesthood, God’s power and authority to act in His name. Black members of the church were not allowed to hold the Priesthood until 1978. Why you ask? No one knows. In fact, there is no statement from Joseph Smith regarding the matter. In reality, we know of two black people that did receive the Priesthood while Joseph Smith was still alive, Elijah Abel and Walker Lewis.
The policy of prohibiting black people from holding the Priesthood appears to have begun under Brigham Young. From there, leaders of the church speculated as to why God would tell Brigham Young through revelation to withhold the Priesthood from black people. Some said black people must not have been faithful in the premortal life. Some said black people were cursed from Cain through every generation since. None of these theories was ever recognized by the church or declared authoritative. These were the opinions of church leaders at the time. They were based on previously received revelations and the scriptures, but that doesn’t mean they were true. Many of their statements appear to demonstrate some level of racism as well.
This stems back to the same reason early church leaders enacted polygamy. The prophet received a revelation and church leaders and members followed. People then speculated as to why God would give such a commandment, and rumors have abounded since. God commands and God revokes. That is the important thing to remember about Mormon theology. He told some to have plural wives. He revoked that commandment. He told the prophet to withhold the Priesthood from black men. He revoked that commandment.
There is no sense in speculating as to why God does such things. Many church leaders, members and critics have speculated as to why black men could not received the Priesthood for 130 years. No one knows why. But Mormons are not racist and do not believe black people are cursed. At least Mormon theology does not believe that. Some members may think that, but that’s not what the Mormon church teaches.