The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published an article on its website last week taking an in-depth look at its past practice of refusing to ordain black men to its priesthood. But a historian who’s studied the issue says there’s more to the story.
Newell Bringhurst has published several books on the history of the church’s denial of the priesthood to men of African ancestry – a ban that ended in 1978 with a revelation announced by then-church President Spencer Kimball.
Bringhurst says the article published Friday is good as far as it goes, pointing out that the policy was formally instituted by Brigham Young in 1852. But he says the church needs to reconcile statements made by some of its more recent leaders as well.
“One of the people that I think was most problematic as far as resisting change was the last leader before Spencer W. Kimball, Harold B. Lee," Bringhurst tells KUER. "Because he was very outspoken in his feelings that blacks should never have the priesthood.”
The article in the topics section of lds.org ends by saying today’s church rejects racism and disavows past teachings that dark skin is a sign of divine disfavor. Since 1978, church membership has grown rapidly in countries such as Brazil and Ghana.