Mom always taught us to be kind to everyone.
But as a young Mormon girl, I was also taught that black people were cursed by God—which is why we believed their skin was black. It was also why we were told black men couldn’t hold the Mormon priesthood and why black people couldn’t be married in the Mormon temple.
It all came to a head for me when my mom abruptly moved our family from small town Utah to Mississippi so we could live closer to where my dad was working at the time.
I walked into my new third grade class and discovered that at least half of my new classmates were black. I was shocked and didn’t know how to react. Because as Mormons, we believed black people had sided with Satan during a war with Jesus in the spirit world.
That’s where we believed all of us—Satan and Jesus included—lived as spirit children before coming to Earth. We believed God punished Satan and his most avid followers by casting them out of the spirit world without bodies. Then he punished the rest of his followers by turning their skin black when they were born.
My nine-year-old mind was having a hard time making sense of it all. If black people sided with the devil, didn’t that make them evil? And if they were evil, and had been cursed with black skin by God to prove this, shouldn’t I be steering clear of them?
I still cringe at this memory and the knowledge that I actually believed this horrible, damaging, ridiculous story that I was taught during my first eleven years of life.
On June 9, 1978, the Church suddenly reversed the policy denying black people equal rights in the religion. I still remember the Mormon prophet announcing that he had received a special revelation from God. Now, thirty three years to the month after the reversal, a black Mormon convert is defending the discrimination, calling it part of “God’s unfolding plan.”
According to a June 9th story by Peggy Fletcher Stack and Kristen Moulton in the Salt Lake Tribune Blog, Keith N. Hamilton, a black man who converted to the Mormon religion in 1980, defends the former Church policy in his autobiography, Last Laborer: Thoughts and Reflections of a Black Mormon.
Here are a couple of paragraphs from that story:
Withholding priesthood from blacks was part of God’s unfolding plan, writes Hamilton, to bring Christ’s gospel to different groups in a kind of progression — from Jew to Gentile to Americans, then Europeans, then finally to all the peoples of the world.
The restriction was “no man-made policy, no quick-fix solution to mob threats, nor a policy instituted because some white LDS Church leader(s) had concerns about black-white relations,” writes Hamilton, an attorney and former member of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole. “It was done in the wisdom of God, in accordance with his wise purposes.”
To read the full story, click here.
I’m sad and at a loss for words.