Many people ask me why I keep researching and writing and collecting data about something that happened hundreds of years ago, why I keep researching about Elijah Abel or Jane Elizabeth Manning James or Joseph T. Ball. It seems hard for some to understand why someone who is not African American seem so interested in keeping the memory of these courageous and faithful LDS members alive.
This past week, a lot of these questions were answered. As you all know, the Church took the time recently to release a statement with regards to the Priesthood restriction:
“During the first two decades of the Church’s existence, a few black men were ordained to the priesthood. One of these men, Elijah Abel, also participated in temple ceremonies in Kirtland, Ohio, and was later baptized as proxy for deceased relatives in Nauvoo, Illinois. There is no evidence that any black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime.
In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood, though thereafter blacks continued to join the Church through baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Following the death of Brigham Young, subsequent Church presidents restricted blacks from receiving the temple endowment or being married in the temple. Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church.” Race And The Priesthood
I was very excited and pleased when the Church released this statement because even though a lot of us who invested a lot of time, energy and why not, emotion and heart to this particular topic and we would have liked perhaps a more detailed explanation and a few things added, we also know and understand that the Church tried to do their very best without compromising fragile testimonies. All I can say is that I am grateful.
As Latter Day Saints, how aware we are that within our midst there are active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day-Saints who even after this statement insist in propagating the theories with regards to African Americans? How many of us know that some within our midst do not believe in that statement because it was not signed by President Monson and therefore it is considered just an anonymous statement done by some Church staff member?
Just recently online, I was baffled at some comments in a discussion board with present views about Blacks and the “Curse of Cain” and the “Non-valiant in the preexistence” past teachings that have been officially disavowed by the modern LDS Church. It saddens me deeply and I feel it is my moral obligation and the moral obligation of every Latter Day Saint to make sure we do not allow such theories that are being masked as doctrine and scriptural interpretation, to continue propagating among us and outside our community.
Granted, sometimes no matter what information we present (As I have done this past week) it does not change what the other person wants to believe, having said that, I do not think we should allow such hurtful theories online or offline to go undisputed.
There is a social and moral responsibility each one of us should feel as disciples of Christ to eradicate these acidulous comments we are hearing among us, not only these distressing theories that do not help in any way but throw more salt to the already existing wound but also any derogatory comments we often hear about other people’s races or ethnicity. When we merely sit quietly and listen to those comments without disputing them, we become part of the problem.
I am pleading with each one of you, whoever is reading this, to stand for what is right. Thirty six years have passed since that glorious day of June, 1978 when the Priesthood restriction was lifted and yet among us in 2014, there are members who insist in continuing living in the past and adhere to the theories that the present LDS Church have disavowed.
Please, for respect towards our African Americans brothers and sisters of ALL creeds, for respect to our early LDS Black members, for respect to yourself, for respect to the Lord, do not propagate theories that are harmful to all of us and particularly to our African American brothers and sisters. Please, do not let these theories to go unchallenged.
Stand for what is right, a lot of us will be thankful and I can only imagine, the many grateful souls in the other side of the veil.