Until recently the Latter-day Saint Church had denied the priesthood, as well as several other religious practices to anyone that was of African decent. Heavy criticism from both non-Mormon and Mormon parties mounted until 1978, when then Church president Spencer Kimball announced the repeal. Several theories have been recently developed to explain the origins and reasoning of racial inferiority and the manner in which the Latter-day Saint Church treated African Americans during the last one- hundred and seventy-one years. A large portion of the Book of Mormon describes the history of several pre-Christian civilizations that existed throughout America. It wasnt until 1880 that the Pearl of Great Price became common Holy Scripture and was incorporated with the Book of Mormon.
It eventually became a major tool in justifying the denial of Priesthood to anyone of African decent. The life of the biblical figure, Cain, is a very important aspect of the literary work. He was believed to have the ability to converse with God, but he loved Satan more than God. Cain murdered his brother Abel and gloried in his wickedness because Satan commanded him to perform the task. Because of his decision to worship Satan not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father of an inferior race.
() Cains decedents became known as the People of Canaan; blackness came upon all their children and they were despised among all people. The prophet Joseph Smith and the early elders of the Church believed that the seed of Cain continued through the flood by the wife of Ham, a son of Noah. Several historians have formed a Missouri thesis, which traces the Mormons belief in black racial inferiority to the period in history when the majority of members of the Mormon Church resided in the slave state of Missouri. This thesis explains that the Church felt the need to project anti-black views to placate slaveholders. The Church was largely antislavery, and Missouri citizens were quick to notice the differences in the newly formed Church. A Secret Constitution was circulated through Jackson County in July of 1833 that accused the Saints of tampering with our slaves, and endeavoring to sow dissensions and raise sedition's amongst them.
(Moore, p. 216) The members of the Church were eventually forced out of the county after violent Mob action. Several other historians have dismissed the so-called Missouri thesis, arguing that the denial of priesthood came under the leadership of Brigham Young. A major fact that argues against the Missouri thesis was the record of the first African American priest; Elijah Abel was ordained an elder in the Melchizedek priesthood.
It is believed that Abel was a close friend of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He was able to perform several church ordinances, including performing marriages, because he was recognized by the state of Ohio as a licensed minister of the Church. While participating in missionary work for the Church, controversial attitudes were directed towards Abel from both Mormon and non-Mormon parties. Citizens in upstate New York accused Abel of murder and offered a reward for his apprehension, but fortunately he was able to clear his name and was aloud to leave un-harmed. After the assassination of Smith, Brigham Young led the LDS Church to settle Utah.
Slavery issues often coincided with attempts at statehood. Church leaders were frequently forced to address the position of the church concerning the Negro race. Church elders, including Young, often spoke out against slavery in the South, but the increasing number of black migrations into the territory of Utah between 1847-1850 began to complicate the feeling of many Church leaders. Historical analysis disproved the Missouri thesis and showed that the Church didnt begin the practice of discrimination against blacks by denying them the priesthood until after the death of the prophet Joseph Smith. After nearly a hundred and forty years, Church elders, lead by the President of the Church, Spencer Kimball, announced that through prayer they had received a revelation from God allowing the title of priesthood to be available to Mormons of all racial and ethnic background. The announcement of the revelation marked the most significant change in the Mormon religion since the end of the practice of polygamy.
Kimball had pondered over the reversal of the practice for several years; he sought support from the Council of the Twelve. Each apostle met with Kimball in private to discuss the positive and negative aspects of black priesthood denial. It was only after all the apostles had agreed with the new revelation that the Church announced publicly that blacks would be admitted to the priesthood. The inability of the Church to avoid social pressures was most likely the main reason for the revelation. The present practice of the Church constitutes the interpretation of scripture, including the doctrine that all are alike unto God, "black" and white, bond and free, male and female." (Moore, p.
234) After examining the main controversies against the nature of Latter Day Saints as a religion, I would conclude stating that according to my personal opinion there is no reason why this religion should be treated as a cult as it does not seem to be potentially dangerous to its members and / or to the large society.