Question: How can one reconcile the patriarchal blessings given to blacks during the priesthood and temple bans?

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Question: How can one reconcile the patriarchal blessings given to blacks during the priesthood and temple bans?

This is a doctrinal or theological topic about which there is no official Church doctrine of which FAIR is aware and/or about which we may learn more "line upon line; precept upon precept" (2 Nephi 28:30; Isaiah 28:10). Leaders and members may have expressed a variety of opinions or positions. Like all material in FAIR Answers, it reflects the best efforts of FAIR volunteers, not an official Church position.

Introduction to Question

From 1849 to June 1978, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints restricted African men from receiving its priesthood and restricted both African men and women from receiving sacred temple ordinances the Church considers necessary for exaltation.

During this time, members and leaders of the Church theorized that African men and women were descendants of Cain, Ham, and Canaan—lineages that were thought to be cursed. Members and leaders used these theories to justify the priesthood and temple restrictions.

Also during this time, patriarchs proclaimed African members of the Church as a part of these lineages during patriarchal blessings—ostensibly because the patriarchs were influenced to by leaders of the Church who, in official capacities, were proclaiming that blacks belonged to these lineages.[1] How can one reconcile this?

Response to Question

Another Article on Unfulfilled Patriarchal Blessings

FAIR has another article that they have written that gives several different possibilities for why this occurred. Members are encouraged to read it and come to their own conclusions about why this happened while remembering that the Church has no official position on this issue.

What the Church Has Disavowed and What it Has Not Disavowed

In December 2013, the Church published an essay on its website giving an explanation of what is known about the restrictions and what is not known about them.

Near the end of the essay, the Church disavows a couple of theories advanced in the past about the restrictions:

Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.[2]

It will be important for those investigating this issue to note that the Church has not said that there was no one in the past that was part of the lineage of Cain, Ham, and/or Canaan. They specifically say that black skin is not a sign of being a part of those lineages.


Notes

  1. Matthew L. Harris, "Mormons and Lineage: The Complicated History of Blacks and Patriarchal Blessings, 1830-2018," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 51, no. 3 (2018): 83–129.
  2. "Race and the Prieshtood," Gospel Topics Essays, December 6, 2013, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics-essays/race-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng.