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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: February 04, 2012 04:48PM

In another thread, RfM participant “Stray Mutt” asked, “Is there documentation for that letter . . .? It would be good to have in order to fight claims that it isn't authentic, that it was made up by enemies of the church.”

("Is there documentation for that letter, Steve?," posted by "Stray Mutt," on "Recovery from Mormonism" bulletin board, 4 February 2012, at: http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,408365,408936#msg-408936)


The letter to which “Stray Mutt” refers is one written by the Mormon church's First Presidency to a member of the LDS Church, Utah State University sociology professor Lowry Nelson, who was protesting the Mormon church's racist ban against Black men holding the Mormon priesthood.

Below is that First Presidency letter to Nelson (as well as additional correspondence between the First Presidency, a counselor in the First Presidency and Nelson).

Also provided is documentation that the Mormon church's official position discouraging interracial marriage remains in force today.

At the conclusion of presenting that evidence, documentation is provided to underscore the authenticity of the correspondence between Nelson and the First Presidency/First Presidency counselor--should it be needed when confronting Mormon apologists who might wish to deny its factual basis.
_____


--The Mormon Church's Position Against Interracial Marriage, As Originally and Officially Stated by the First Presidency--

On 17 July 1947, the LDS First Presidency wrote to Lowry Nelson, Mormon professor of sociology at Utah State Agricultural College, regardingt the status of Blacks in the eyes of the Mormon God.

(For a biographical sketch of Nelson, see: “Lowry Nelson Collection, “ in “Special Collections and Archives, Utah State University Libraries, at:http://library.usu.edu/Specol/manuscript/collms17.html)


First, however, some background as to how Nelson came to correspond with the First Presidency as a critic of the Mormon church's racist anti-Black doctrine.

Mormon researcher and writer Lester E.Bush reports that Nelson received a letter from a mission president, dated 20 June 1947, “regarding the Negro population of Cuba.” Bush writes, “I verified this particular quote,” adding that “[t]he letter . . . initiated a lengthy exchange between Nelson and the First Presidency over the Church teachings on the Negro . . . “

Bush highlights an excerpt “from the initial letter” sent by the mission president to Nelson:

“A short time ago at the request of the First Presidency I visited Cuba in view of doing missionary work on that island. While there I met Mr. Chester W. Young . . . He advised me that you spent two years in Cuba making a study of rural communities. . . . I would appreciate your opinion as to the advisability of doing missionary work particularly in the rural sections of Cuba, know, of course, your concept of the Negro and his position as to the Priesthood.

“Are there groups of pure white blood in the rural sections, particularly in the small communities? If so, are the maintaining segregation from the Negroes? The best information we receive was that in the rural communities there was not segregation of the races and it would be difficult to find, with any degree of certainly, groups of pure white people.”


Nelson replied to the mission president on 26 July 1947, as reported by Bush in this excerpt:

“The attitude of the Church in regard to the Negro makes me very sad . . . . I do not believe that God is a racist.

"But if the Church has taken an irrevocable stand, I would dislike to see it enter Cuba or any other island where different races lived and establish missionary work. The white and colored people get along much better in the Caribbean and most of Latin-America than they do in the United States . . . .

"For us to go into a situation like that and preach a doctrine of 'white supremacy' would, it seems to me, be a tragic disservice. . . .

"I am sad to have to write you and say, for what my opinion is worth, that it would be better for the Cubans if we did not enter their island—unless we are willing to revise our racial theory. To teach them the pernicious doctrine of segregation and inequalities among races where it does not exist, or to lend religious sanction to I where it has raised tis ugly head would, it seems to me, be tragic. It seems to me we just fought a war over such ideas.”

(Lester E. Bush, from his self-described "compilation [of] scattered notes" dealing with the history of Blacks in the Mormon church, pp.248-49; copy in my possession)


What followed, less than a month later, was this letter to Nelson from the LDS First Presidency:

"Dear Brother Nelson:

". . . The basic element of your ideas and concepts seems to be that all God's children stand in equal positions before Him in all things. Your knowledge of the Gospel will indicate to you that this is contrary to the very fundamentals of God's dealings with Israel dating from the time of His promise to Abraham regarding Abraham's seed and their position vis-a-vis God Himself. Indeed, some of God's children were assinged to superior positions before the world was formed.

"We are aware that some Higher Critics do not accept this, but the Church does. Your position seems to lose sight of the revelations of the Lord touching the pre-existence of our spirits, the rebellion in heaven, and the doctrines that our birth into this life and the advantages under which we may be born, have a religionship in the life heretofore. From the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith even until now, it is has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by any of the Church leaders, that the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel.

"Furthermore, your ideas, as we understand them, appear to contemplate the intermarriage of the Negro and White races, a concept which has heretofore been most repugnant to most normal-minded people from the ancient partiarchs till now. God's rule for Israel, His Chosen People, has been endogamous [meaning 'marriage within a specific tribe or similar social unit']. Modern Israel has been similarly directed. We are not unmindful of the fact that there is a growing tendency, particularly among some educators, as it manifests itself in this are, toward the breaking down of race barriers in the matter of intermarriage between whites and blacks, but it does not have the sanction of the Church and is contrary to Church doctrine.

"Faithfully yours,

George Albert Smith
J. Reuben Clark, Jr.
David O. McKay"


Nelson responded on 8 October 1947:

"The attitude of the Church in regard to the Negro makes me very sad. I do not believe God is a racist."


The First Presidency answered:

"We feel very sure that you are aware of the doctrines of the Church. They are either true or not true. Our testimony is that they are true. Under these circumstances we may not permit ourselves to be too much impressed by the reasonings of men, however well founded they may seem to be. We should like to say this to you in all sincerity, that you are too fine a man to permit yourself to be led off from the principles of the Gospel by worldly learning.

"You have too much of a potentiality for doing good and we therefore prayerfully hope that you can re-orient your thinking and bring it in line with the revealed Word of God."
_____


--Fast Forward to the Present: The Mormon Church's Position Against Interracial Marriage Still Stands--

Significantly, the anti-interracial marriage sentiments of eventual LDS church president Spencer W. Kimball were reprinted in the Mormon church-owned "Deseret News" on 17 June 1978, as part of the LDS church's official announcement of its 180-degree reversal on Mormonism's long-standing anti-Black priesthood ban.

To this day, Kimball's anti-interracial marriage statement stands officially unrevoked.

It reads as follows (as reported and requoted in June 1978 in the Mormon church-owned "Church News" section of the "Deseret News," where the LDS church first published its announcement on the lifting of its priesthood ban against Blacks):

“In an address to seminary & institute teachers at [BYU] . . . President Kimball, then a member of the Council of the 12, said: '. . . [T]here is one thing that I must mention & that is interracial marriages. When I said you must teach your young people to overcome their prejudices & accept the Indians, I did not mean that you would encourage intermarriage.’"


In the LDS church’s 2011 Aaronic Priesthood manual (Manual 3, Lesson 31, "Choosing an Eternal Companion"), interracial marriage has continued to be discouraged, via the words of Kimball:

“We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally & of somewhat the same economic & social & educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), & above all, the same religious background, without question.” (Kimball, "Marriage and Divorce," BYU devotional, 1976, reprinted in "Devotional Speeches of the Year," 1977)
_____


--Documentation of the Mormon Church's Historical Doctrinal Anti-Black Bigotry Regarding the Above--

--In quoting from the First Presidency's 17 July 1947 letter to Lowry Nelson, Lester E. Bush, Jr., in his article, "Mormonism's Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview," notes the following:

"In spite of the numerous reviews of Church policy towards the Negro that had taken place since 1879, the First Presidency could write as recently as 1947, 'From the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith until now, it has been the doctrine of the Church, NEVER QUESTIONED by any of the Church leaders, that the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel.' The reevaluations have always started with the assumption that the doctrine was sound."

(Bush, "Mormonism's Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview [reprinted fro "Dialogue," Vol. 8, No. 1, 1973, copyright, "Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought," P.O. Box 1387, Arlington, Virginia 22210], p. 43; emphasis added by Bush)


--Bush sources the 17 July 1947 First Presidency letter in footnote 198 of his above-quoted essay as follows: "First Presidency letter (from Presidents Smith, Clark, and McKay) to Lowry Nelson, July 17, 1947, copy at Brigham Young University Library."

(Bush, "Mormonism's Negro Doctrine," p. 67; for text of the same First Presidency letter, see also, "The First Presidency--1947," in John Lewis Lund, "The Church and the Negro: A Discussion of Mormons, Negroes and the Priesthood," Chapter IX, "Church Leaders Speak Out on the Negro Question" and Chapter VI, "Interracial Marriage and the Negro" [copyright, John Lewis Lund, 1967], pp. 88-89, 52-53)


--The full text of the First Presidency's letter of 17 July 1947 to Lowry Nelson is found in Bush's "compilation [of] scattered notes." In that compilation, Bush reprints the contents of that First Presidency letter as follows:

"July 17, 1947

"First Presidency letter to Lowry Nelson (from John J. Stewart 'Mormonism and the Negro,' p. 46-7, though independently verified):

"'We might take this initial remark: The social side of the Restored Gospel is only an incident to it; it is not the end thereof.

"'The basic element of your ideas and concepts seems to be that all God's children stand in equal positions before Him in all things.

"'Your knowledge of the Gospel will indicate to you that this is contrary to the very fundamentals of God's dealing with Israel dating from the time of His promise to Abraham regarding Abraham's seed and their position vis-a-vis with God Himself. Indeed, some of God's children were assigned to superior positions before the world was formed. We are aware that some Higher Critics do not accept the, but the Church does.

"'Your position seems to lose sight of the revelations of the Lord touching the pre-existence of our spirits, the rebellion in heaven, and the doctrine that our birth into this life and the advantages under which we may be born, have a relationship to the life heretofore.

"'From the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith even until now, it has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by any of the Church leaders, that the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel.

"'Furthermore, your ideas, as we understand them, appear to contemplate the intermarriage of the Negro and White races, a concept which has heretofore been most repugnant to most normal-minded people from the ancient patriarchs till now. God's rule for Israel, his Chosen People, has been endogamous. Modern Israel has been similarly directed.

"'We are not unmindful of the fact that there is a growing tendency, particularly among some educators, as it manifests itself in this area, toward the breaking down of race barriers in the matter of intermarriage between whites and blacks, but it does not have the sanction of the Church and is contrary to Church doctrine.'"

(Bush, "scattered notes," p. 249)


--John J. Stewart, in his book "Mormonism and the Negro," describes the First Presidency's 17 July 1947 letter to Lowry as being a "divinely directed policy [that] has been reaffirmed by the Church leaders in our day."

In referencing that First Presidency letter, Stewart writes, "In answering the letter of a prominent Mormon critical of the Church policy in this matter [i .e., Lowry], the First Presidency of the LDS Church, a few years ago, wrote as follows . . ." Stewart then proceeds to quote the letter.

(Stewart, "Mormonism and the Negro," Part XII [Orem, Utah: Bookmark, a Division of Community Press Publishing Company, 1960], pp. 46-47; and footnote 20, "Letter of LDS Presidency to Dr. Lowry Nelson, July 17, 1947," under "References," p. 55)


--Bush also provides confirmation regarding additional First Presidency communications with Nelson on the subject of the Mormon Church's official position of denying the priesthood to men of African descent:

"November 12, 1947

"First Presidency in a continuation of the Nelson correspondence. Nelson had written in response to an earlier FP letter, and said among other things, 'This doctrine pressed to is logical conclusion would say that Dr. George Washington Carver, the late eminent and saintly Negro scientist, is by virtue of the color of his skin, inferior even to the least admirable white person, not because of the virtues he may or may not possess, but because--through no fault of his--there is a dark pigment in his skin." (letter of October 8, from 'Mormonism and the Negro,' p. 33). Part of the First Presidency reply:

"'We feel very sure that you understand the doctrines of the Church. They are either true or not true. Our testimony is that they are true. Under these circumstances we, may not, [sic] permit ourselves to be too much impressed by the reasonings of men, however well-founded that may seem to be. We should like to say this to you in all to you in all sincerity, that you are too fine a man to permit yourself to be led off from the principles of the Gospel by worldly learning. You have too much of a potentiality for doing good and we therefore prayerfully hope that you can re-orient your thinking and bring it in line with the revealed word of God." (MAN, p. 28)"

(Bush, "compilation [of] scattered notes," p. 253)


--In regard to the 12 November 1947 First Presidency reply to Nelson, Stewart writes the following in his "Mormonism and the Negro":

"A typical critic of the LDS policy regarding the Negroes has asserted that, 'This doctrine pressed to its logical conclusion would say that Dr. George Washington Carver, the late eminent and saintly Negro scientist, is by virtue of this color of his skin, inferior even to the least admirable white person, not because of the virtues he may or may not possess, but because--through no fault of his--there is a dark pigment in his skin.'"

{Stewart, "Mormonism and the Negro," Part VIII, p. 33)


--Stewart sources Nelson's letter to the First Presidency as follows:

"Dr. Lowry Nelson, a nationally prominent sociologist, a member of the LDS Church, a native Utahn, and a fine Christian gentleman. Quote is from his letter to the First Presidency of the LDS Church, October 8, 1947."

(Stewart, "Mormonism and the Negro," footnote 20, in "References," p. 55)


--Stewart, in attacking Nelson's position as laid out by Nelson in his 8 October 1947 letter to the First Presidency, writes:

"There is nothing in LDS teaching to support or indicate such a notion of this. The circumstances of our birth in this world are dependent upon our performance in the spirit world, just as the circumstances of our existence in the next world will depend upon what use we make of the blessings and opportunities we enjoy in this world.

"According to LDS doctrine, Dr. George Washington Carver--who, incidentally, was a mulatto rather than a Negro--will be far ahead of many of us born under more favorable circumstances in this life, for he made the most of his opportunities, while many of us are forfeiting our birthright. We were ahead of him in the first lap of the race, but he has gone far ahead of many of use in the second. . . .

"While the Negro and others of Negroid blood cannot hold the Priesthood, in this stage of life, apparently because of a lack of valor in the pre-existence, neither are any of them likely to become Sons of Perdition--as many of the Priesthood bearers might become. Again in this we see the justice and mercy of God: that while in a certain stage of existence a man cannot attain the highest blessings, neither is he so subject to the danger of falling to the lowest state. , , ,

"Note that the Pharaoh was a good man, just as Dr. George Washington Carver and many others of Negroid blood have been are are good men."

(Stewart, "Mormonism and the Negro," Part VII, pp. 33-34, 43)


--Stewart also quotes part of a letter from First Presidency counselor David O. McKay to Nelson, regarding "Negroid" George Washington Carver's Mormon-determined eternal status:

"November 3, 1947

"Dear Brother:

"In your letter to me of October 28, 1947, you say that you and some of your fellow students 'have been perturbed about the question of why the negroid race cannot hold the priesthood.' . . .

"George Washington Carver was one of the noblest souls that ever came to earth. He held a close kinship with his heavenly Father, and rendered a service to his fellowmen such as few have ever excelled. For every righteous endeavor, for every noble impulse, for every good deed performed in his useful life George Washington Carver will be rewarded, and so will every other man be he red, white, black or yellow, for God is no respecter of persons.

"Sometime in God's eternal plan, the Negro will be given the right to hold the Priesthood."

As to why George Washington Carver and other "Negroid" men were denied the priesthood, First Presidency counselor McKay informed Nelson:

"I know of no scriptural basis for denying the Priesthood to Negroes other than one verse in the Book of Abraham (1:26); however, I believe, as you suggest, that the real reason dates back to our pre-existence. . . .

"Revelation assures us that this [Great Plan] antedates man's mortal existence, extending back to man's pre-existent state. In that pre-mortal state, were 'intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these were many noble and great ones;

"'And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: 'These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good.'

"Manifestly, from this revelation, we may infer two things: first, that there were many among those spirits different degrees of intelligence, varying grades and achievement, retarded and advanced spiritual attainment; second, that there were no national distinctions among those spirits such as Americans, Europeans, Asiatics, Australians, etc. Such 'bounds of habitation would have to be "determined" when the spirits entered upon their earthly existence or second estate. . . .

". . . [I]t is given as a fact in revelation that Abraham was chosen before he was born. . . . [E]ach little spirit is attracted to the spiritual and mortal parentage for which the spirit has prepared itself.

"Now if none of these spirits was permitted to enter mortality until they all were good and great and had become leaders, then the diversity of conditions among the children of men as we see them today would certainly seem to indicate discrimination and injustice.

"But if in their eagerness to take upon themselves bodies, the spirits were willing to come through any lineage for which they were worthy, or to which they were attracted, then they were given THE FULL REWARD OF MERIT, AND WERE SATISIFED, yes, and even blessed. . . .

"By the operation of some eternal law with which man is yet unfamiliar, spirits came through parentages for which they are worthy--some as Bushmen of Australia, some as Solomon Islanders, some as Americans, as Europeans, as Asiattics, etc., etc., with all the varying degrees of mentality and spirituality manifest in parents of the different races that inhabit the earth.

"Of this we may be sure, each was satisfied and happy to come through the lineage to which he or she was attracted and for which, and only which, he or she was prepared.

"The Priesthood was given to those who were chosen as leaders.

"There were many who could not receive it, yet knew that it was possible for them at sometime in the eternal plan to achieve that honor. Even those who knew that they would not be prepared to receive it during their mortal existence were content in the realization that they could attain every earthly blessing--progress intellectually and spiritually, and possess to a limited degree the blessing of wisdom."

(David O. McKay, letter to Lowry Nelson, 3 November 1947, original emphasis; published in "Home Memories of President David O. McKay," by Llewelyn R. McKay, pp. 226-31, as cited in "Historical Supplement" entitled, "The Church and the Negroid People," by William E. Bennett, in Stewart, "Mormonism and the Negro," pp. 19-21, 23 of Bennett's supplement; for the text of the same letter, see "David O. McKay," in Lund, "The Church and the Negro," Chpater IX, "Church Leaders Speak Out on the Negro Question," pp. 91-95)



Edited 23 time(s). Last edit at 02/05/2012 04:47AM by steve benson.

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Posted by: jaredsotherbrother ( )
Date: February 04, 2012 05:53PM

Great piece Steve, if for no other reason that I can now add "endogamous" to my vocabulary.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: February 04, 2012 11:21PM

From the First Presidency's letter of 17 July 1947 to Lowry Nelson (definition of "endogamous" in brackets):

"Furthermore, your ideas, as we understand them, appear to contemplate the intermarriage of the Negro and White races, a concept which has heretofore been most repugnant to most normal-minded people from the ancient partiarchs till now. God's rule for Israel, His Chosen People, has been endogamous [meaning 'marriage within a specific tribe or similar social unit']. Modern Israel has been similarly directed."



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/04/2012 11:24PM by steve benson.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: February 04, 2012 11:21PM


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/04/2012 11:23PM by steve benson.

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Posted by: Don Bagley ( )
Date: February 04, 2012 11:41PM

If Mormonism is so great, then how come 20 minutes with Steve Benson is more enlightening than a lifetime of church propaganda?

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Posted by: drilldoc ( )
Date: February 05, 2012 03:37AM

Seems the "doctrines of men" were much a part of the first presidency as they seem to in fact reflect the racism of the day.

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Posted by: jpt ( )
Date: February 05, 2012 10:28AM

when the world around them forces them too, (the cash flow is negatively affected), they can receive "further light and knowledge" and catch up with the world.... and then the mormon masses can sing "we thank thee oh god for a prophet."

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Posted by: anagrammy ( )
Date: February 05, 2012 05:38AM


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Posted by: Eric K ( )
Date: February 05, 2012 08:49AM

test

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Posted by: Eric K ( )
Date: February 05, 2012 08:54AM

ffff

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Posted by: Eric K ( )
Date: February 05, 2012 08:58AM

sigh

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Posted by: Eric K ( )
Date: February 05, 2012 09:59AM

still down

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Posted by: Raider ( )
Date: February 05, 2012 10:50AM

jpt ( ) Thats "we thank thee oh god for a profit."

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Posted by: Naomi ( )
Date: February 05, 2012 12:10PM

This is the current teaching of the church - a little watered down by being given as a recommendation, but still, it was spoken by a prophet and is being taught in the manuals to impressionable young people. I am in an "interracial" marriage (depending on your definition of race - he's a dark-skinned Caucasian) and I find these teachings disgusting.

In the LDS church’s 2011 Aaronic Priesthood manual (Manual 3, Lesson 31, "Choosing an Eternal Companion"), interracial marriage has continued to be discouraged, via the words of Kimball:

“We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally & of somewhat the same economic & social & educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), & above all, the same religious background, without question.” (Kimball, "Marriage and Divorce," BYU devotional, 1976, reprinted in "Devotional Speeches of the Year," 1977)

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: February 05, 2012 08:52PM

"We are aware that some Higher Critics do not accept this, but the Church does. Your position seems to lose sight of the revelations of the Lord touching the pre-existence of our spirits, the rebellion in heaven, and the doctrines that our birth into this *relationship in the life heretofore."



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/05/2012 09:02PM by steve benson.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: February 05, 2012 09:01PM

Fellow LDS sociologist Armand Mauss confirms that:

--a) the Mormon church preached and promoted the curse of Cain as being a premortal doctrine, imposed on misbehaving pre-born Black spirits before they came to Earth; and

--b) the opposition by prominent Mormon sociologist Nelson Lowry to the Mormon church's official anti-Black priesthood ban helped place the final nail in that bigoted and official LDS teaching.
_____


Mauss, in the book, “Neither White nor Black: Mormon Scholars Confront the Race Issue in a Universal Church.” writes:

“The first stirrings of the final stage [of hanging on by the Mormon church before it reversed itself on its racist anti-Black priesthood ban] might be seen in the 1947 exchange of letters between Professor Lowry Nelson, a distinguished Mormon sociologist, and the First Presidency of the Church.”

Mauss adds in a footnote that “Nelson had first been approached by church leaders for his assessment of the feasibility of opening missionary work in Cuba after World War II. His letter grew out of concerns about such an effort, given the Church's racial policy.”

Mauss continues:

“The [First Presidency's] remarks to Nelson, who questioned the validity of church policy on race, are important because they were the first official (though not public) church utterance on the race subject for a long time. Following the traditional rationale, the Presidency explained the policy on Blacks in terms of differential merit in the premortal life; stated that the priesthood ban was official church policy from the days of Joseph Smith onward; and raised, with great misgivings, the specter of interracial marriage. . . .

“ . . . Nelson, apparently not satisfied with the outcome of his . . . correspondence with the First Presidency, went public in 1952 with an article in 'The Nation' that reiterated some of the thoughts he had expressed in his 1947 letter. . . . On the whole, the statements by church leaders in this period . . . showed a certain consistency with the traditionalist and operative lore of the times, including a special concern for the problems presented by intermarriage.”

(Armand L. Mauss, “”Fading of the Pharaoh's Curse: The Decline and Fall of the Priesthood Ban Against Blacks in the Mormon Church," in his essay, ”Neither White nor Black: Mormon Scholars Confront the Race Issue in a Universal Church,” Lester E. Bush, Jr. and Armand L. Mauss, ed. [Midvale, Utah: Signature Books, 1984], pp. 150, 153, 178fn20; see also, “The Nation,” 174, 24 May 1952, pp. 488ff)



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 02/05/2012 09:30PM by steve benson.

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