A Parallel History
The history, within Mormonism,
of polygamy, and the denial of the priesthood to blacks of African descent,
share a number of interesting parallels which raise some rather serious
questions. The most obvious question is whether there was ever any revelation
to end either practice. Additionally, there is no more reason to think
that Mormon leaders have actually renounced their views about dark skin
being a curse from God than there is to think they have renounced the belief
that polygamy was a divine principle ordained of God.
In both cases - polygamy, and banning blacks from the
priesthood - Mormon leaders taught that the practice was instituted by
God and could not be changed by themselves. Refusal to obey either principle
would precipitate divine punishment. (On polygamy,
see: Doctrine & Covenants 132:3-4; Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, p.
203; vol. 11, p. 269; On priesthood ban for blacks, see: Brigham Young
Addresses, Ms d 1234, Box 48, folder 3, dated February 5, 1852, located
in the LDS Church Historical Department; quoted in Tanner, Mormonism-Shadow
or Reality? fifth edition, p. 293-A.)
Mormon leaders claimed that both practices were based
on eternal, divine doctrine, as revealed in scripture given through the
prophet Joseph Smith. (On polygamy, see: Doctrine
& Covenants 132; On priesthood ban for blacks, see: Pearl of Great
Price, Moses 7:8, 12, 22, and Abraham 1:21-27.)
Mormon leaders say there was also revelation from God
requiring an end of both practices (see material following the Manifesto,
in Official Declaration - 1, and, Official Declaration - 2). However, neither
of the Official Declarations by which these practices were declared ended
actually contains any such revelation. No actual text of either revelation
has ever been printed.
Other "revelations" were added to Mormon scripture during
the 1970s, and made into additional Sections in the Doctrine & Covenants.
The Church has not so dignified either of the documents ending polygamy
and the priesthood ban on blacks. This leaves the unavoidable impression
that both the "Official Declarations" are not really viewed by the Church
Authorities as revelation or scripture like the rest of the Church's standard
The revelation authorizing polygamy - indeed, commanding
it, under threat of damnation - is still printed without modification,
as scripture (D&C 132), binding on the consciences of Mormons. All
of the passages used to support the former discrimination policy against
blacks are likewise still printed and affirmed as scripture - the Word
of God - by the Mormon Church.
In both cases, no acknowledgement has ever been made that
either the doctrine or practice was actually wrong. To the contrary, the
principle of plural marriage is still taught in the Mormon Church as a
true principle - a principle supposedly practiced by God in the Celestial
Kingdom, now, and that will yet be practiced there by Mormons as well.
In the case of the priesthood ban against blacks, only the practice is
acknowledged to have been changed.
Mormon leaders have adopted the position that the plural
marriage "doctrine" is true, but for the sake of the progress of "the gospel"
in the world, it is not currently "practiced." Could it be that Mormon
Church leaders have merely stopped "the practice" of denying priesthood
on the basis of race, while still believing "the doctrine" that skin color
is a curse from God, and thus that blacks are still cursed by God? Do they
truly regard ordination of blacks to the priesthood as valid and upheld
by God, or as only an empty form necessary to avoid an obstacle to the
progress of Mormonism in the world? Could it be that neither they nor their
God have ever really changed their minds on this issue any more than they
changed their minds about polygamy? If there actually were any revelations
ending either practice, why have they never been published?