Since 1978, the LDS Church has been trying to rectify its sad history of racism. Until recently, this process has been occurring slowly. But lately the atonement process has started to accelerate. Frankly, it is time to wipe the slate clean. We can’t change our history, but we can impact our future.
Recent steps in the atonement process include:
- An admission that the denial of the priesthood and temple entrance to blacks had nothing to do with Old Testament scripture.
- An admission that the denial was more a function of the times that it was of real doctrine. Instead of blaming God, we are starting to understand the follies of the humans responsible.
So why do we need to repent for our racist past? Our alleged doctrine lead to very ugly acts of racism. In addition to the priesthood denial, I will mention four particularly ugly episodes:
- As late as the Presidency of David O. McKay, the Hotel Utah was segregated. It may have been a grand hotel, but it was also a very “White” hotel.
- In a 1954 letter to Michigan Governor George Romney, Apostle Delbert L. Stapley made the following statement: “I fully agree the Negro is entitled to considerations, but not full social benefits nor intermarriage privileges with the Whites, nor should the Whites be forced to accept them into restricted Whites area.” And there were others of the General Authorities that had similar views.
- President Ezra Taft Benson preached that the Civil Rights movement was part of a communist conspiracy. In 1966, he published a 1966 pamphlet titled: “Civil Rights, Tool of Communist Deception.” He also had thoughts of running on a Presidential ticket on two separate occasions with separate segregationist southerners (one a Senator and one an infamous Governor) each time.
- On my mission, a Canadian was married to a Czech woman who had a baby with African blood. The child was not allowed to be sealed to the couple. So much for focus on the family.
On October 7, 1943, both Benson and Spencer W. Kimball became Apostles. Because Kimball was older than Benson and was therefore ordained first, he was given seniority over Benson in the Quorum. So Kimball became President of the LDS Church before Benson. One can only wonder if the 1978 racial pronouncement would have been delayed if Benson had been ordained first.
So how do we atone for our institutional racism? Here are three suggestions:
- First, that the leadership pen a letter that is read over every LDS pulpit that states unequivocally that our past racism was never a doctrine of God.
- Second, we need to formally apologize to a venerable Black organization like the NAACP or Urban League for our past racism, and for the longtime it took us to come to grips with our past.
- Third, that LDS Church members begin to overtly discuss racial issues as part of our various educational systems.
Let’s put this unfortunate part of our past behind us. Let’s repent.