First Presidency Statement on blacks. The statement came amid newspaper reports of first counselor Hugh B. Brown's statements about an imminent change in the church's policy toward blacks and the priesthood. Apostle Harold B. Lee reversed the Twelve's amenability to such a change and drafts this reaffirmation of the policy. Brown reluctantly signs it after he adds an edorsement of civil rights for African-Americans. It is published on 10 Jan. 1970. In response, Roy Wilkins of the NAACP writes a guest editorial for the Los Angeles Times on 26 Jan, which concludes: "The Mormon walls on race will come tumbling down," a prophecy fulfilled in eight years.
"In view of confusion that has arisen, it was decided at a meeting of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve to restate the position of the Church with regard to the Negro both in society and in the Church. "
"First, may we say that we know something of the sufferings of those who are discriminated against in a denial of their civil rights and Constitutional privileges. ... "
"In revelations received by the first prophet of the Church in this dispensation, Joseph Smith (1805-1844), the Lord made it clear that it is "not right that any man should be in bondage one to another." ... "
"It follows, therefore, that we believe the Negro, as well as those of other races, should have his full Constitutional privileges as a member of society, and we hope that members of the Church everywhere will do their part as citizens to see that these rights are held inviolate. ... "
"However, matters of faith, conscience, and theology are not within the purview of the civil law. The first amendment to the Constitution specifically provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
"The position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affecting those of the Negro race who choose to join the Church falls wholly within the category of religion. It has no bearing upon matters of civil rights. In no case or degree does it deny to the Negro his full privileges as a citizen of the nation."
"This position has no relevancy whatever to those who do not wish to join the Church. Those individuals, we suppose, do not believe in the divine origin and nature of the church, nor that we have the priesthood of God. Therefore, if they feel we have no priesthood, they should have no concern with any aspect of our theology on priesthood so long as that theology does not deny any man his Constitutional privileges. "
"A word of explanation concerning the position of the Church."
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owes its origin, its existence, and its hope for the future to the principle of continuous revelation. ... "
"From the beginning of this dispensation, Joseph Smith and all succeeding presidents of the Church have taught that Negroes, while spirit children of a common Father, and the progeny of our earthly parents Adam and Eve, were not yet to receive the priesthood, for reasons which we believe are known to God, but which He has not made fully known to man. "
"Our living prophet, President David O. McKay, has said, "The seeming discrimination by the Church toward the Negro is not something which originated with man; but goes back into the beginning with God…. "
"Revelation assures us that this plan antedates man's mortal existence, extending back to man's pre-existent state."
President McKay has also said, "Sometime in God's eternal plan, the Negro will be given the right to hold the priesthood."
Until God reveals His will in this matter, to him whom we sustain as a prophet, we are bound by that same will. Priesthood, when it is conferred on any man comes as a blessing from God, not of men.
... We have no racially-segregated congregations.
... But we believe that this work is directed by God and that the conferring of the priesthood must await His revelation. To do otherwise would be to deny the very premise on which the Church is established.
We recognize that those who do not accept the principle of modern revelation may oppose our point of view. We repeat that such would not wish for membership in the Church, and therefore the question of priesthood should hold no interest for them. Without prejudice they should grant us the privilege afforded under the Constitution to exercise our chosen form of religion just as we must grant all others a similar privilege. They must recognize that the question of bestowing or withholding priesthood in the Church is a matter of religion and not a matter of Constitutional right.
... Meanwhile we must strive harder to emulate His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, whose new commandment it was that we should love one another. In developing that love and concern for one another, while awaiting revelations yet to come, let us hope that with respect to these religious differences, we may gain reinforcement for understanding and appreciation for such differences. They challenge our common similarities, as children of one Father, to enlarge the out-reachings of our divine souls.
Faithfully your brethren,
The First Presidency
By Hugh B. Brown
N. Eldon Tanner
[Neither White nor Black: Mormon Scholars Confront the Race Issue in a Universal Church: Chronological Bibliography on the Negro Doctrine [1900-1983], Edited by Lester E. Bush, Jr., and Armand L. Mauss, http://amzn.to/newmormonstudies]