In your letter to me of October 28, 1947, you say that you and some of your fellow students have been 'perturbed' about the question of why the negro race cannot hold the priesthood.
In reply I send you the following thoughts that I expressed to a friend on the same subject:
Stated briefly your problem is simply this'
Since, as Paul states, the Lord 'hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth,' why is there shown in the Church of Christ discrimination against the colored race?
This is a perplexing problem, particularly in the light of the present trend of civilization to grant equality to all men irrespective of race, creed, or color. The answer as I have sought it cannot be found in abstract reasoning, for in this case Reason to the soul is 'dim as the borrowed rays of moon and starts to lonely , weary, wandering travelers.'
I know of no scriptural basis for denying the Priesthood to Negroes other than one verse in the Book of Abraham (1:26); however, I believe, as you suggest, that the real reason dates back to our Pre-existent life.
This means that the true answer to your question (and it is the only one that has given me any satisfaction) has its foundations in faith'(1) Faith in a God of Justice (2) Faith in the existence of an eternal plan of salvation for all God's children. Faith in a God of Justice Essential ...
I emphasize Justice as an attribute of Deity, because it is the Lord, who, though He made 'of one blood all nations.' also 'determined the bounds of their habitation.' In other words the seeming discrimination by the Church toward the Negro is not something which originated with man, but goes back into the Beginning with God.
It was the Lord who said that Pharaoh, the first Governor of Egypt, though 'a righteous man,' blessed with the blessings of the earth, with the blessings of wisdom'**** 'could not have the right of the Priesthood.' ...
For, as we have already noted, it is a given fact in revelation that Abraham was chosen before he was born. Songs of expectant parents come from all parts of the earth, and each little spirit is attracted to the spiritual and moral parentage for which the spirit had prepared itself.
When, therefore, the Creator said to Abraham, and to others of his attainment, 'you I will make my rulers,' there could exist no feeling of envy or of jealousy among the million other spirits, for those who were good and great were but receiving their just reward, just as do members of a graduation class who have successfully completed their prescribed courses of study. The thousands of other students who have not yet attained that honor still have the privilege to seek it, or they may if they choose, remain in satisfaction down in the grades. ...
George Washington Carver was one of the noblest souls that ever came to earth. He held a close kinship with his Heavenly Father, and rendered a service to his fellow men such as few have ever excelled. For every righteous endeavor, for every good deed performed in his useful life, George Washington Carver will be rewarded, and so will every other man, red white, black, or yellow; for God is no respecter of persons.
Sometime in God's eternal plan, the Negro will be given the right to hold the Priesthood. In the meantime, those of that race who receive the testimony of the Restored Gospel may have their families ties protected and other blessings made secure, for in the justice and mercy of the Lord they will possess all the blessings to which they are entitled in the eternal plan of Salvation and Exaltation.
Nephi 26:33, to which you refer, does not contradict what I have said above, because the Negro is entitled to come unto the Lord by baptism, confirmation, and to receive of the assistance of the Church in living righteously.
[David O. McKay, Letter to 'Dear Brother', as quoted in Minutes of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1910-1951, Privately Published, Salt Lake City, Utah 2010]