University of Illinois Press sent me a copy of their new book Black and Mormon, edited by Newell G. Bringhurst and Darron T. Smith. I am supposed to review it. I am only three-quarters of the way through it, so I cannot do a proper review yet, but it is such a good book, I thought I would post my thoughts so far.
Black and Mormon consists of various essays written by different scholars on the issue of Blacks and the priesthood within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Naturally, I was somewhat weary of reading the book, but I kept an open mind and dived right in. I am sure glad I did. It is such a fascinating book?¢‚Ç¨‚Äùthe dry parts aside of course.
What I thought I would post about were some things I found interesting.
First, anyone who is at all comfortably familiar with the history of the Blacks in the Church is also familiar with the name of Elijah Abel. Of course, there are many who are not. Brother Abel was a member of the Church in its infancy. He was ordained a Seventy in 1836. However, what you may not know is that Brother Abel went on to serve three full-time missions, the third one in 1883. In addition, his son Enoch was ordained an elder in 1900 and his grandson Elijah was ordained a priest in 1934 and an elder the following year.
Why were so many blacks denied the priesthood while these three were not?
Second, Joseph Smith never instituted the Black Ban. He never taught that blacks should be denied the priesthood. In fact, the denial was not implemented until the year the saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. The closest the Prophet ever came to issuing such a ban was to state that slaves were not allowed to be ordained without permission from their slave-owners. He also said such slaves could not be baptised without permission.
Third, I came across two awesome quotes; one by Joseph Smith and one by Joseph Fielding Smith.
But there has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodge for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle [maul]. Even the Saints are slow to understand.
I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions; they cannot stand the fire at all.
Joseph Fielding Smith, comp. and ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1976), 331.
It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teaching of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s doctrine.
You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only so far as the accord with the reveal word in the standard works.
Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954), 3:203.
There are many anecdotes in the essays that offer a different perspective on the entire issue. I am looking forward to finishing the remainder of the book. It has been a great read and I have learned quite a bit from it. Had I known it was going to be this good of a resource, I would have bought it myself.
And I am not even a reader.