History of African Americans in Mormonism

The Early Years

When the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church, was founded by Joseph Smith in 1830, it faced opposition and persecution from various groups. One of the founding principles of the church was the belief in the divinity of all races, including African Americans. However, as the church grew and spread across the United States, racial prejudice became more prevalent, and the status of African Americans within the church became complicated.

History of African Americans in Mormonism 1

In its early years, the church did allow African Americans to hold the priesthood and participate in temple rituals. In fact, there were instances of African American men holding leadership positions within the church. However, as the church expanded to the South, where slavery was prevalent, the leadership of the church felt increasing pressure to align with the prevailing racial attitudes of the time.

The Ban on Priesthood

In 1852, Brigham Young, the second president of the church, instituted a policy that barred African Americans from receiving the priesthood or participating in temple ceremonies. This policy became known as the “ban on priesthood” and remained in place for over 100 years.

The reasons for the ban have been the subject of much debate and speculation. Some have argued that it was a response to societal pressures and the desire to avoid conflict with the dominant white culture. Others believe that it was based on a misinterpretation of scripture or a lack of understanding of the true teachings of the church.

Regardless of the reasons, the ban had a significant impact on the lives of African American members of the church. They were excluded from many leadership roles and were unable to participate in key religious ceremonies. This created a sense of alienation and frustration within the African American community.

The Lifting of the Ban

In 1978, the president of the church at the time, Spencer W. Kimball, received a revelation that overturned the ban on priesthood for African Americans. This revelation came after many years of prayer and consideration by the church leadership.

The lifting of the ban was a monumental moment in the history of the church and marked a significant step towards equality for African American members. It was a recognition that all individuals, regardless of their race, are worthy of receiving the blessings of the gospel and participating fully in the church.

Since the lifting of the ban, African Americans have been able to serve in various leadership positions within the church. They have also been able to participate in temple ceremonies, which are considered to be essential for salvation within the Mormon faith.

Addressing the Past

While the lifting of the ban was a positive step, it did not erase the pain and frustration experienced by African American members during the years of exclusion. The church has made efforts to address its past and reconcile with those who were affected by the ban.

In 2013, the church issued an official statement disavowing the theories and explanations that were put forth to justify the ban on priesthood. The statement acknowledged that the reasons for the ban are not known and that it was a matter of policy, not doctrine.

The church has also made efforts to increase diversity within its leadership and membership. It has established programs and initiatives aimed at reaching out to communities of color and providing support and resources for African American members.

African American Mormons Today

Today, there are thousands of African American members of the Mormon Church. They are an integral part of the church community and continue to contribute to its growth and development.

While the history of African Americans in Mormonism has been marked by challenges and struggles, it is also a story of resilience and determination. African American Mormons have overcome adversity and have been instrumental in shaping the church into what it is today.

As the church continues to evolve and grow, it is important to remember and honor the contributions of African American members. Their experiences and perspectives enrich the church and help to further its mission of spreading the teachings of Jesus Christ.


The history of African Americans in Mormonism is a complex and nuanced one. It is a story of both progress and setbacks, of exclusion and inclusion. The lifting of the ban on priesthood was a significant turning point, but it does not erase the past. The Mormon Church has taken steps to address its past and to ensure that all individuals, regardless of their race, are welcomed and valued within the church. The contributions of African American Mormons are an essential part of the church’s history and continue to shape its future. We’re committed to providing an enriching learning experience. That’s why we suggest this external website with extra and relevant information about the subject. Investigate this useful research, investigate and broaden your understanding!

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