bookmark_borderBrigham Young: Racist Prophet of the Mormons – Part 2

It is not clear why Brigham Young followed the racist pro-slavery views of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery from 1836 instead of the more liberal-minded abolitionist views of Joseph Smith from 1842 to 1844.  However, confronting the reality of mixed-race marriages and sex between black men and white women appears to have pushed Young further in the direction of racist beliefs and practices:
One of the most significant, and simultaneously most obscure marriages in LDS history took place on September 18, 1846.  On that day, 21 year-old Enoch Lovejoy Lewis married 19 year-old Mary Matilda Webster in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[4]  At first glance, this couple and their marriage seem rather unremarkable.  Both were members of the LDS Church in the Lowell MA branch.  The young bride, Mary Matilda, was from Chester, MA – a tiny rural village in the southwestern area of that state.  Her parents did not marry until almost two years after her birth, so Mary was either illegitimate or one of her parents had a previous, unknown marriage that produced her. The importance and uniqueness of this marriage lies in the fact that Mary Matilda’s groom, Enoch Lovejoy Lewis, was the son of a black father and a mixed-race mother.  And Matilda, the name she went by, was white.  Three years after Massachusetts repealed its ban of allowing white people to marry either those of African or Native American descent, this inter-racial marriage of a white Mormon woman and a black Mormon man ignited a firestorm in the LDS Church, and its effects are still being felt to this day.
[Excerpted from a web article:]
“I would confine them to their own species”
LDS Historical Rhetoric & Praxis Regarding Marriage Between Whites and Blacks
Connell O’Donovan   March 28, 2009
viewed 8/25/13
This marriage between a black Mormon man and a white Mormon woman appears to have provided part of the motivation for Brigham Young to formulate and promote racist beliefs and practices for the Mormon church:
On February 24, 1843, the Massachusettsstate legislature voted to repeal the old law.  Just three and a half years later, Enoch and Matilda faced each other and under God pledged their marital vows in an extraordinary act of newly gained social and political freedom.  Matilda, by the way, was two months pregnant at the time of her marriage to Enoch and some six months later, she gave birth to Enoch Lovejoy Lewis Jr.  Unfortunately for them, the president of the eastern states mission, a man named William I. Appleby, was proselytizing in the Boston-Lowell area at the time of little Enoch’s birth.
A month after Enoch Jr. was born, Appleby visited the Lowell Branch on May 19, 1847.  He was shocked to discover that not only had a black man been ordained to priesthood (Enoch’s father, Walker Lewis) but also that Enoch had married a white LDS woman.  Two weeks later, Appleby wrote a letter to Brigham Young, informing him of this situation and wanting to know if the church indeed approved of blacks holding priesthood and marrying white women:
At Lowell…I found a coloured brother by name of ‘Lewis’ a barber, an Elder in the Church, ordained some years ago by William Smith.  This Lewis I was informed has also a son who is married to a white girl and both members of the Church there.  Now dear Br. I wish to know if this is the order of God or tolerated in this Church  ie to ordain Negroes to the Priesthood and allow amalgamation [inter-racial marriage].  If it is I desire to Know, as I have Yet got to learn it.[9]
Almost a month later, Appleby decided to investigate further and went to the Enoch Lewis home to witness their relationship:
In looking for a Br. in the Church, I called at a House, a coloured man resided there, I set myself down for a few moments presently in came quite a good looking White Woman, about 22 years old I should think, with blushing cheeks, and was introduced to me as the negro’s wife, an infant in a cradle near bore evidence of the fact. Oh! Woman, thought I, where is thy shame, (for indeed I felt ashamed and not only ashamed, but disgusted, when I was informed they were both members of a Church!) [Where is] Respect for thy family, thyself, for thy offspring and above all the law of God?[10]
9. William I. Appleby to Brigham Young, May 19, 1847, LDS Archives, copy in my possession.
10. Autobiography and Journal of William Appleby, June 16, 1847, LDS Archives, photocopy in my possession.
[Excerpted from a web article:]
“I would confine them to their own species”
In a December 1847 meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve, Brigham Young put forward some racist views that would influence Mormon belief and practice for more than a century:
…Pres. Appleby wrote a report to Brigham Young about his discovery of Enoch Lewis’s marriage to Matilda Webster.  He mailed this report to Brigham Young with an address at Council Bluff,Iowa, where it was then forwarded to Winter Quarters,Nebraska, and there remained.  Young, of course, was just settling in Utah at the time, so the acting Mormon president did not receive the letter for some six months.  Ironically, Appleby’s letter, Brigham Young, and William I. Appleby himself, all converged at Winter Quarters at the beginning of December 1847.  Brigham Young returned to Winter Quarters from theSaltLakeValley, when Elder William I. Appleby arrived there on December 2 from his mission presiding over the eastern states.  Young read Appleby’s letter regarding the marriage of Enoch and Matilda Lewis and then immediately met with Appleby in person to ensure the accuracy of the details of the inter-racial marriage of Enoch and Mary Matilda Lewis.
…Young called a meeting of the members of the Twelve who were present in Winter Quarters, and had Appleby appear to personally give an account. Here are Thomas Bullock’s minutes of that meeting:
bro Appleby relates…
Wm. Smith ordained a black man Elder at Lowell & he has married a white girl & they have a child
Prest. Young    If they were far away from the Gentiles they wod. [would] all on [sic – ot? ought?] to be killed – when they mingle seed it is death to all.
If a black man & white woman come to you & demand baptism can you deny them?  the law is their seed shall not be amalgamated
Mulattoes r like mules they cant have children, but if they will be Eunuchs for the Kingdom of God Heaven’s sake they may have a place in the Temple
B. Y.    The Lamanites r purely of the house of Israel & it is a curse that is to be removed when the fulness of the Gospel comes –
O. H.  Has taught that if girls marry the half breeds they r throwing themselves away & becoming as one of them
B. Y.  It is wrong for them to do so.
B. Y.  The Pottawatamies will not own a man who has the negro blood in him – that is the reason why the Indians disown the negro prophet [Warner McCary]. 

It is here in this meeting that the Mormon theology prohibiting marriages between blacks and whites was born. Although the minutes are extremely sparse, they are densely compacted with theological themes that will be carried on into the following decades.
[Excerpted from a web article:]
“I would confine them to their own species”
Young indicated that death was an appropriate punishment for the mixed-race couple, though it is not clear whether the sin meriting death was getting married or having sex and producing a child together.  The pronouncement that “the law is their seed shall not be amalgamated” and the racist belief that “Mulattoes r like mules they cant have children” suggests that Young believed the greatest wrong to be having sex and producing a mixed-race child.

Brigham Young re-affirmed this belief that sex between whites and blacks was a terrible sin deserving of death on at least two other occasions:
Blood Atonement Is Necessary
In 1847, with the Enoch and Matilda Lewis case, Young first introduced the idea that black-white marriage merited capital punishment, promising that if the Lewis’s lived “far away from the Gentiles” they would be killed.
When Enoch’s father, Walker Lewis, was wintering in Salt Lake Cityin 1851 and 1852, Brigham Young pointedly had the legislature pass a law forbidding not marriage between blacks and whites but all sexual relations between the two races.  In getting the all-LDS territorial legislature to pass this statute in February 1852, Young told them that it was such a serious crime against God that the only way to atone for it was through capital punishment:
And if any man mingles his seed with the seed of Cane the ownly way he Could get rid of it or have salvation would be to Come forward & have his head Cut off & spill his Blood upon the ground.  It would also take the life of his Children.[20]
Eleven years later, in the midst of the Civil War, Brigham Young again affirmed blood atonement for black-white marriage on March 8, 1863:
Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race?  If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.[21]
In 1897 George Q. Cannon of the First Presidency, said in a meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve:
he had understood President Taylor to say that a man who had the priesthood who would marry a woman of the accursed seed that if the law of the Lord were administered upon him, he would be killed, and his offspring, for the reason that the Lord had determined that the seed of Cain should not receive the priesthood in the flesh; and this was the penalty put upon Cain, because if he had received the priesthood the seed of the murderer would get ahead of the seed of Abel who was murdered.[22]
20. Wilford Woodruff Journal, undated entry between January 4, 1852 and February 8, 1852, pp. 97-99.
21. Journal of Discourses, (Liverpool: F. D. and S.W. Richards, 1854), Vol. 1, p. 110. [I believe the volume number is a typo. The quote if from Volume 10, p. 110].
22. “Excerpts From The Weekly Council Meetings Of The Quorum Of the Twelve Apostles, Dealing With The Rights of Negroes In the Church, 1849–1940,” George Albert Smith Papers,UniversityofUtahLibrary.
[Excerpted from a web article:]
“I would confine them to their own species”
To be continued…

bookmark_borderBrigham Young: Racist Prophet of the Mormons – Part 1

Brigham Young was a racist white man who initiated racial discrimination into the official policies and practices of the Mormon church (more specifically: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest denomination of the Latter Day Saint movement).
One key racist policy of the Mormons was to exclude blacks from “the priesthood”. In the Mormon faith “priesthood” was not limited to just a few select members of the church (as in the Catholic faith). Any adult male or boy who is at least twelve years old can, and usually does, become a member of the priesthood in the Mormon faith:
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest denomination of the Latter Day Saint movement, priesthood is recognized only in men and boys, who are ordained to offices in the priesthood as a matter of course once they reach the age of 12, so long as they meet requirements of “worthiness”. There are no other requirements for ordination, although prior to 1978, the church did not ordain men or boys who were deemed to be of black African descent, based on the mid-19th century teachings of Brigham Young…
viewed 8/24/13
So, excluding blacks from the priesthood did not only keep blacks out of leadership roles in the Mormon church, it also made black males clearly and obviously second-class members of the Mormon church.
Brigham Young initiated this racist policy and practice in 1852, and it remained in place for 126 years. Mormon Church President Spencer Kimball ended the policy of excluding blacks from the priesthood in June of 1978.
Although the Mormon church has officially abandoned the racist policies and practices of its past, racism is still a problem in the church, as indicated by the recent racist remarks of a Brigham Young University professor of religion:
February 29, 2012 7:56am
Racist Remarks by popular BYU Religion Professor Spark Controversy
[except from opening paragraphs of the article]
Racist apologetics by a popular Brigham Young University religion professor are sparking controversy, as election-year scrutiny sheds a revealing light on the persistence of racist belief among LDS Church members.
On Tuesday, Randy Bott, a BYU professor of religion, told the Washington Post that the LDS Church’s historic prohibition on priesthood ordination for men of African descent was a “blessing” to blacks because they were not “ready” for priesthood authority.
“God has always been discriminatory” when it comes to whom he grants the authority of the priesthood, says Bott… Bott compares blacks with a young child prematurely asking for the keys to her father’s car, and explains that similarly until 1978, the Lord determined that blacks were not yet ready for the priesthood.
“What is discrimination?” Bott asks. “I think that is keeping something from somebody that would be a benefit for them, right? But what if it wouldn’t have been a benefit to them?” Bott says that the denial of the priesthood to blacks on Earth—although not in the afterlife—protected them from the lowest rungs of hell reserved for people who abuse their priesthood powers. “You couldn’t fall off the top of the ladder, because you weren’t on the top of the ladder. So, in reality the blacks not having the priesthood was the greatest blessing God could give them.”
Bott was the highest-rated professor in America in 2008, according to He teaches large sections of required religion courses, including courses designed to prepare future missionaries, to as many as 3,000 students a year. This semester, more than 800 students are registered in Professor Bott’s classes. (Eleven are registered for BYU’s African-American history course this semester.) Professors at BYU routinely find themselves having to address racist and sexist content taught in Bott’s classes, and many are outraged and embarrassed by his rogue remarks to the Washington Post, say sources at the university. “Dr. Bott does not speak for BYU or the Church and his views are his own,” one religion faculty member told me.
viewed 8/24/13
Brigham Young was not the first racist leader of the Mormon church. That distinction belongs to Joseph Smith, who founded the church in 1830. In 1836 Joseph Smith published a pro-slavery article that gave a number of standard arguments in defense of slavery:
At least five major objections to the abolitionist cause can be identified in Joseph Smith’s discussion:
—First, he believed the course of abolitionism was “calculated to … set loose, upon the world a community of people who might peradventure, overrun our country and violate the most sacred principles of human society,-chastity and virtue….”
—Second, any evil attending slavery should have been apparent to the “men of piety” of the South who had raised no objections to the institution.
—Third, the Prophet did “not believe that the people of the North have any more right to say that the South shall not hold slaves, than the South have to say the North shall …”; the signing of petitions in the North was nothing more than “an array of influence, and a declaration of hostilities against the people of the South….”
—Fourth, the sons of Canaan (or Ham) whom Joseph Smith identified with the Negro were cursed with servitude by a “decree of Jehovah,” and that curse was “not yet taken off the sons of Canaan, neither will be until it is affected by as great power as caused it to come … and those who are determined to pursue a course which shows an opposition … against the designs of the Lord, will learn … that God can do his work without the aid of those who are not dictated by his counsel….”
—Fifth, there were several other biblical precedents for slavery (in the histories of Abraham, Leviticus, Ephesians, Timothy).
[excepted from:]
Neither White nor Black
Lester E. Bush, Jr. and Armand L. Mauss, eds.
Chapter 3
Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview
Lester E. Bush, Jr.
viewed 8/24/13
In the same issue of Messenger and Advocate (April 1836), Oliver Cowdery proposed his own racist defense of slavery. Oliver Cowdery was Joseph Smith’s right-hand man, at least during the initial year of their new religion (Smith was known as “First Elder” of the church, and Cowdery was known as “Second Elder”):
Oliver Cowdery’s article was more directly concerned with race. He touched on most of the points raised in the other two articles, but dwelt at much greater length on the problems of insurrection and the social implications of emancipation:
… Let the blacks of the south be free, and our community is overrun with paupers, and a reckless mass of human beings, uncultivated, untaught and unaccustomed to provide for themselves the necessaries of life—endangering the chastity of every female who might by chance be found in our streets—our prisons filled with convicts, and the hangman wearied with executing the functions of his office! This must unavoidably be the case, every rational man must admit, who has ever travelled in the slave states, or we must open our houses, unfold our arms, and bid these degraded and degrading sons of Canaan, a hearty welcome and a free admittance to all we possess! A society of this nature, to us, is so intolerably degrading, that the bare reflection causes our feeling to recoil, and our hearts to revolt….
He also saw little alternative to slavery:
… The idea of transportation is folly, the project of emansipation [sic] is destructive to our government, and the notion of amalgamation is devilish! … And insensible to feeling must be the heart, and low indeed must be the mind, that would consent for a moment, to see his fair daughter, his sister, or perhaps, his bosom companion, in the embrace of a NEGRO!
[excerpt from Chapter 3 of Neither White nor Black]
viewed 8/24/13
A few years later Joseph Smith changed his mind and began to oppose slavery. During his presidential campaign in 1844, “he proposed abolishing slavery by 1850 and compensating slaveholders through sale of public lands.”
(, viewed 8/23/13).
The one racist idea that Smith held onto was opposition to interracial marriage, specifically marriages between white persons and black persons:
In favoring “equal rights” for Negroes, Joseph Smith did not wish to remove all legal restrictions on that race. Nor should the impression be conveyed that he was completely free of nineteenth-century prejudices. The aversion to miscegenation apparent in the articles in 1836 was later incorporated into the laws of Nauvoo; and in the same breath that the Prophet advocated “national equalization” for Negroes, he expressed a desire that they be confined “by strict law to their own species.”
(from Neither White nor Black, Chapter 3)
For some reason Brigham Young adopted the racist pro-slavery views of Smith and Cowdery from 1836 and ignored Smith’s more liberal-minded abolitionist views from 1844.
One likely explanation for Young’s taking a racist pro-slavery position in 1852 was that this was, in part, a reaction against marriage and sex between black men and white women, specifically marriage and sex between a particular black Mormon man and a particular white Mormon woman in Massachusetts, which occurred shortly after Massachusetts rescinded its law against such marriages.
To be continued…