Question: Is interracial marriage prohibited or condemned within the Church?

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Question: Is interracial marriage prohibited or condemned within the Church?

Spencer Kimball prior to the lifting of the priesthood ban: "There is no condemnation," but rather concerns about "the difficulty…in interrace marriages."

In an address to Native American students at BYU in January 1965, then-Elder Spencer W. Kimball explained that there is no condemnation of interracial marriage:

Now, the brethren feel that it is not the wisest thing to cross racial lines in dating and marrying. There is no condemnation. We have had some of our fine young people who have crossed the [racial] lines. We hope they will be very happy, but experience of the brethren through a hundred years has proved to us that marriage is a very difficult thing under any circumstances and the difficulty increases in interrace marriages.[1]

Two years prior to the lifting of the priesthood ban, Spencer W. Kimball told a group of BYU students and faculty:

we recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background. Some of these are not an absolute necessity, but preferred; and above all, the same religious background, without question. In spite of the most favorable matings, the evil one still takes a monumental toll and is the cause for many broken homes and frustrated lives.[2]

Here inter-racial marriage is not recommended, but not as an absolute standard—it is grouped with other differences (such as socio-economic) which might make marriage harder, but not as absolutely necessary to success as sharing the same beliefs.

The Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws in the 16 remaining states that still had them unconstitutional in 1967.

Church spokesman after the lifting of the priesthood ban: "So there is no ban on interracial marriage"

After the priesthood ban was lifted, church spokesman Don LeFevre stated:

So there is no ban on interracial marriage. If a black partner contemplating marriage is worthy of going to the Temple, nobody's going to stop him... if he's ready to go to the Temple, obviously he may go with the blessings of the church."[3]

The Church Handbook of Instructions say nothing concerning interracial marriages

On the LDS Church website, Dr. Robert Millet writes:

[T]he Church Handbook of Instructions... is the guide for all Church leaders on doctrine and practice. There is, in fact, no mention whatsoever in this handbook concerning interracial marriages. In addition, having served as a Church leader for almost 30 years, I can also certify that I have never received official verbal instructions condemning marriages between black and white members.[4]

There have been leaders that have openly opposed miscegenation in any form

It is important to note that their have been leaders that have voiced their opinion against interracial marriage.

Among leaders that have been opposed to it in any form are Brigham Young, Mark E. Peterson, George Q. Cannon,[5]J. Reuben Clark,[6] Bruce R. McConkie,[7] and Delbert Stapley.[8] Prior to 1978, leaders' statements about interracial marriage were generally harsh and reflected a desire for outright prohibition of it spiritually and legally.

Church leaders have generally followed the pattern of soft discouragement like that exhibited in Spencer W. Kimball's 1965 comment following the lifting of the priesthood and temple restrictions in 1978.

Notes

  1. "Interracial Marriage Discouraged," Church News, 17 June 1978, italics added; off-site.
  2. Spencer W. Kimball, Marriage and Divorce: An Address [adapted from an address to BYU students and faculty, Fall 1976] (Salt Lake City, Deseret Book, 1976), 10. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  3. Don LeFevre, Salt Lake Tribune, 14 June 1978.
  4. Robert L. Millet, "Church Response to Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven," 27 June 2003 off-site
  5. "The Journal of George Q. Cannon: February 1881," The Church Historian’s Press. LDS Church. 1 February 1881, Tuesday ... [J. Floyd King] asked me our belief respecting intermarriage with inferior races, particularly the negro. I told him our views, with which he was delighted. ... He predicted great things for us in the future; that we believed in procreation and in preserving the purity of the dominant or pure Aryan race. ... He had ... become disgusted with the attitude of the churches upon this important question. He said all the churches taught or consented to miscegenation, and he felt it would be the destruction of every people who practiced it ....
  6. See also Matthew L. Harris and Newell G. Bringhurst, The Mormon Church and Blacks: A Documentary History (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2015), 70.
  7. Ibid., 73.
  8. Delbert L. Stapley to Governor George Romney, January 23, 1964. https://archive.org/details/DelbertStapleyLetter/page/n1/mode/2up?view=theater. "I fully agree the Negro is entitled to considerations also stated above, but not full social benefits nor inter-marriage privileges with the Whites, nor should the Whites be forced to accept them into restricted White areas."