Elijah Abel: Black Mormon Pioneer

Elijah Abel, Black Mormon Pioneer

Today marks the 33rd anniversary of the restoration of the priesthood to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of African decent. On June 8, 1978 LDS church leaders announced that the priesthood would be extended to Mormon men of every race. Those who were there for that remarkable day have said that they can remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news.

While many of us have heard the stories of how the world and members of the church felt on this day, few may know the story of Elijah Abel. Elder Abel was was the first black Elder and Seventy in the LDS church and one of the few black members in the early history of  the church to receive the priesthood.

He was born a slave on July 25, 1808, in Maryland, and it is believed that he escaped slavery into Canada by using the underground railroad. Elijah Abel was baptized in September of 1832 by Ezekiel Roberts. He was ordained an Elder on March 3, 1836 in Kirtland, Ohio by Joseph Smith, and in 1839 he was made a member of the Nauvoo Seventies Quorum.

In 1847 Elijah Abel married Mary Ann Adams, another African-American. Their first son Moroni Abel was born in 1849, and their son Enoch and grandson Elijah, held the priesthood. Enoch Abel, was ordained an Elder on November 27, 1900 and Enoch’s son, Elijah, was ordained a Priest on July 5, 1934, and an Elder on September 29, 1935.

Elijah Abel served LDS church missions in New York, Ohio and Canada. He worked as a carpenter for the building of three LDS Temples, Kirtland, Nauvoo and Salt Lake. In 1853 Elijah Abel and his family journeyed to Utah with other Latter-day Saints. He and Mary Ann managed the Farnham Hotel in Utah.

Elijah Abel served his last mission for the LDS church in 1884, returned home and died on Christmas day, December 25, 1884. In 2002 a monument was erected in Salt Lake City at Elijah Abel’s grave site to memorialize him and his family. The monument was dedicated by LDS church leader Elder M. Russell Ballard. His obituary in the Deseret News, said Elijah Abel “died in full faith of the Gospel.”

It has strengthened our testimonies to learn the the history of the pioneers of our faith, especially those of African decent. On this day there are many stories to be shared, and this is the one that has touched us today. What do you remember about that day, or why is that day significant to you?

Oh Happy Day,
Sista Beehive & Sista Laurel

  • Sue

    Thanks for sharing this interesting story about Elijah Abel. I think I need to know more about this aspect of Church history.

    What I remember about that day is the joy of knowing that so many worthy men would be receiving the priesthood at last.


  • I was eighteen and had been in the Church for a year and a half. The other day I was going through my file cabinet and found the article that appeared in the local newspaper in California about it. I still have it!

    My first missionary lesson I asked the missionaries about that and about women also. They said they’d be happy to answer it but that I didn’t know enough about the gospel to understand the answer yet. They asked if I’d wait until the last discussion and I agreed, but I really struggled, wondering if I should even join the church over it. By the time the last lesson came though, I had learned how to pray so I already knew the answer. I understood I didn’t need to understand the whys of everything about the gospel. (I never outgrew the “why” stage. I always want to know why.) I just needed to know God had it all under control. I think that was an important lesson for a new convert to learn right from the very start.

  • Anonymous

    I am no longer an active member of the LDS church, but I remember how happy I was that day. Although I am a woman, at the time, it affected me deeply not to be able to have the priesthood in my home. It was heart wrenching when all the other boys turned 12 and passed the sacrament and my child could not. We rejoiced that day. There are many reasons why I am no longer attend the LDS church, but I am still grateful for that day, I can remember exactly what it meant to my family at the time. I have never known about Elijah Abel and I am so glad to now know his history. I have a daughter that is active and she will be so glad when I share this with her. I do enjoy reading your words sistas.

  • I was 23 years old, and a mother of a toddler. I remember thinking how wonderful it was that my little girl (and future children) would grow up in the church quite different, and they would never have to try and reconcile it in their hearts. I remember tears of joy.

  • Reggie

    I was baptized in 1988 and so I did not have to go through what others did. I am glad that I could have the priesthood when I joined the Mormon church because I do not know if I would have had the faith to join as others did before 1978. Elijah Abel is one of my heroes he was a good faithful man and is a great example to me of what kind of “brotha” I want to be in this gospel.

  • Anonymous

    I joined the church in 1981 in the DC area. No one even mentioned the previous priesthood ban. I don’t know how I would have reacted had I known. I do know that I have great admiration for those who had the faith to join the Church in spite of the obvious discrimination. I now have sufficient faith to know that God has a timetable and that this timing spared a lot of Black people and the Church as a whole the angst of the growing pains typical of civil rights era desgregation efforts, but hindsight is 20-20. I honor those who had faith in the struggle.

  • Kevin Barney

    I blogged about my reaction to the revelation (I was a young missionary at the time) here:


  • Anonymous

    I have always wondered what is wrong with the black people who are Mormon today and I can not believe that in the 1800s black people were joining the Mormons then. I want to to more about this black man because I never heard such a thing. Where can I learn more about him?

  • Elijah Abel, What a great Pioneer! While at BYU it was refreshing to learn about him and read about his testimony and stories of his faith. He was a man with great conviction that never turned his back on the Church, even when it seemed like the Leaders turn their back on him.

    He knew the greater purpose of the Gospel. He knew that they Lord had set up his Church through the Gentiles and that their would be challenges, however like Simon Peter said in John 6:68 ” Lord to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”

    Elijah knew that with all the human faults of its leaders that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints was and is the Lord’s Church upon the earth. It is through this Church that he knew he had to serve and it was the only way he could receive the Ordinances of Salvation for his family and future generations.

    My experience has been the same. There are problems with people sometimes in the Church, but the Gospel was restored through Joseph Smith and it is only through this Priesthood that we get to have exaltation. This is why June 8th is such a great day. Not because All worthy men received a chance to hold a calling in the Church and be Bishops, etc, but it is the first day that men and women of African decent could receive the Ordinances of Salvation that would unite their families for time and all eternity. This would have happened whether or not June 8th happened, but this day of revelation taught the Church’s leaders and membership that all are alike unto God. We all have the same opportunity to receive of blessings of the Priesthood.

  • Anonymous

    I was too young to know anything, but my husband and I have sometimes asked older people how they felt. I will always remember one friend of ours who talked about how much joy his family felt on that day.

    Such a wonderful day.

  • I view the priesthood restriction as a “dumbed down”version of the higher law that would extend this privilege to all worthy men. Similar to the fact that we are asked to live the law of tithing today rather than the higher law of consecration because we are just not that faithful yet. If that is true then I celebrate June 8, 1978 because it means we have progressed as a human community. I am frustrated sometimes about where we’ve been on human-kind’s journey toward eternal life but I’m excited about where we are going – and thrilled to share this journey with ALL of my brothers and sisters!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for all you do!! Love you guys!!–Ellie

  • I remember the day when I was researching both Elijah Abel and Jane Manning James and realized how close the date of Abel’s death and Jane’s first request for temple blessings were. Jane’s letter (written on Dec. 27th, 1884), addressed to President John Taylor, said, “Dear Brother, I called on your house last Thursday to have conversation with you concerning my future salvation…” I asked my husband to figure out what date “last Thursday” was in 1884. It took him only a few minutes. “December 25th,” he said. Yes, the very day Elijah Abel died, Jane walked to John Taylor’s house to petition for temple blessings, following up with a letter on Dec. 27th, the day of Abel’s funeral. I have to think that his death was a call to action for Jane–and she was relentless in her petitions.
    I wonder how surprised Elijah would be to see how well known he is now, and to know the effect his life has had–even on the events of June 1st, 1978 (made public on June 8th). I honor Elijah Abel and the legacy he stands for. As his obituary says, “He died in full faith of the gospel.”
    Anonymous, for more information, take a look at _Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons_. Abel is talked about in the documentary and in the special features. (www.unknownstoryofblackmormons.com). There are also articles specifically about Abel, most notably Newell Bringhurst’s “Elijah Abel and the Changing Status of Black Men in the LDS Church.” (Check out _Neither White Nor Black_.) The bookstore and website at http://www.blacklds.org have lots of material on the early Black pioneers, and a portion of _Blacks in the Scriptures_ goes into some of the history as well. (It, too, is available at the http://www.blacklds.org store.)

  • I wasn’t around for this day yet but it is significant to be because it represents the fact that this is a growing and progressing church that was able to correct a terrible error that was made by some of the early leaders. I don’t mean to say they weren’t good men but they made a mistake by keeping the Priesthood from those of African descent. Joseph Smith was truly the Prophet of the Restoration and that day in 1978 brought back the Priesthood as it was originally intended to be by God and by His Prophet.

    Men make mistakes and prophets are men to but the work of the Lord will not be stopped though it was slowed for a time. How lucky I feel to live in a time when the flood gates are open again and all may enjoy the blessings of the gospel and service in it.

  • Anonymous

    Sistas I really love this post, but I must say that I am truly, truly, truly enjoying the comments. Thank you for a post that is creating great comments and conversation comments.

  • Anonymous

    AMEN Brother Houston.

  • I remember that day! I thought it was awesome! Thanks for sharing this post.

  • Fontella

    In 1978 I was 12 and Baptist,I didn’t know anything about Mormons,but I had plenty of sad experiences with unrightful judging. I’m glad Father decided that everyone could finally know what Joseph Smith already knew,(that God is the only true and just judge). If you are willing to try and live according God’s will, then you can have the same gifts as everyone else who is striving to do so. Father did promise us he’d share knowledge with us when he feels like we are responsible enough. I guess it took some time for us to reach that level of responsibility.

  • Elijah wasn’t the only black man with the priesthood. Joseph T Ball was Branch President in Boston from 1844-1845. I’ve referenced (thanks to Margaret’s wonderful DVD) as many as 6 prior to Joseph Smith’s death at http://www.mormonheretic.org/2009/03/09/early-black-mormons/

  • I’ve blogged quite a bit about this topic. For more information, see http://www.mormonheretic.org/category/priesthood-ban/

  • Anonymous

    I have taken the discussions many times and I am currently taking them again. I have prayed and I believe in the LDS church, but I can not make the hurdle to baptism because of my feelings about what I believe to be racist teachings in church history and no missionary is giving me a satisfying answer. In prayer tonight I found your precious site and I believe it was an answer to my prayers. I have never once had a missionary tell me of Elijah Abel or other black LDS. I thank the person who put all the information about where to find more about Elijah and the books that were suggested. It was an answered prayer that I could read the feelings of black LDS members and those who are not, all my missionaries have been white, they are good brothers and sisters, but they have not been able to reach me like the story of Elijah Abel has tonight. I am not ready to be baptized, but I know that God is working hard to answer my prayers and questions and that is why I found you. I feel a little bit more peace about the church through all I have learned from those who shared. Something in each paragraph of the article and each comment share was something that I needed to hear and was searching for. Like I said, I am still not ready for baptism, but I know that my discussions will be better and I have new perspective. Thank you, you two women of faith and thank you for all the people who shared and thank you Jesus for answered prayers.

  • This date reminds me of a time when the church accepted some of Gods children as lesser individuals. Personally, I don’t need to be reminded of it. I don’t think there is anything to celebrate. The church should have never denied black people the priesthood or entry into the temple. I truly wish the church would acknowledge this. This would help us move even further.
    I like the way the church is progressing now. The updates to the scriptures, the freedman bank, the missionary effort in Africa and the call of Elder Sitati to name a few. I am happy with the advancements and I hope and pray it continues.

  • Hi, my name is Samuel Dargan and I remember where I was the day the news was broadcast about blacks and the priesthood. I had just entered my senior year of high school, my great uncle and I were watching the evening news. At that time I had no idea who are what a Mormon was. I had never heard of them. That news cast came and went like so many others before it and after it. I graduated the following school year and enlisted in the Army. The Army sent me to Germany where I met a young returned missionary. We became friends. He invited me to church with him, where I met the missionaries. Two weeks after that first meeting I was baptized into the church. I’ve since served a mission. I’ve been a member since 1980 and I know that this is the gospel of Jesus Christ and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is his church. This is the only church that has the fullness of the gospel as it was taught by Jesus Christ when He was upon the earth. This is my testimony that He lives and that He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

    I am African American, and I am a Mormon.

  • God has the whole world in his hands. He revealed the gospel in his good time. He gave the priesthood to all worthy males in his good time. He brought the Israelites out of Egypt in his good time. He gave me children…in all his great wisdom…according to HIS OWN TIMELINE…not mine. I hope to always trust in his timeline as he gathers his children even if it isn’t “how I would do it.” Father knows best.

  • Delia

    Jocelyn Christensen
    Your comments may be a comforting thought for you and others with you mind frame, but they are hurtful me. To suggest that GOD wanted worthy black men to be discriminated against until 1978 is not a comfort to me. Why blame GOD and HIS TIMELINE for things that are wrong. There are things that happen whether GOD wants them to or not racism, murder, slavery. There is free agency, there are racist beliefs that get placed by MAN into GOD’s kingdom. Your TIMELINE theory may keep YOUR testimony intact and if so, so be it, but I don’t buy it one bit.

  • Aahgh! I can’t believe I gave the wrong website for the “Nobody Knows” DVD. It’s http://www.untoldstoryofblackmormons.com .

    Thanks for honoring this history with this lovely blog post. There is a remarkable legacy that EVERYONE should know about.

  • Anonymous

    I was in the living room of our apartment on 500 North St. in Provo, UT, the radio was on, it was mid-morning. The news was reported with the straightforward, detached quality of all other newsstories. Moments into it I realized what they were saying, a thrill ran through me. An obstacle I had never understood very well was suddenly removed. I wanted to tell everybody. I couldn’t get my wife on the phone. I called my mother, always a model of faith and LDS heritage. She had questions. What was I saying? Where had I heard this? It had seemed so obvious to me. Her faith would also bring her to appreciate this news. My association with LDS of African descent has brought into my life greater appreciation of the sacrifice and faith of my own pioneer ancestors of European descent. It has also made me aware of the insidious presence of racial prejudice in my community, that hinders professional advancement, that brings injustice into our justice system, that prevents richer social relations. This anniversary is a great reminder of the divine nature that we all share and the need of every worthy priesthood holder to bring us all to Christ. Thank you, sistas, for this important reminder. God bless your blog. With love from Kalamazoo.

  • Anonymous

    While I was too young to remember…I do know that EVERY time I recollect on this change…I am overcome with emotion. Like someone else said…it wasn’t just for the brothers…but for the sisters too…and for their children, their ancestors, their progenitors…that day in the SPIRIT WORLD was a Party!!!!! And for the unborn…there was much rejoicing as well!! And then everyone started getting back to work…there was/is still alot of work to be done in the kingdom.
    –Julie from Detroit

  • Anonymous

    I remember that special day…I had become less-active because, deep in my heart I couldn’t reconcile how my Loving Father as I knew him, could withhold the blessing of the Priesthood from the warm, loving, black brethren that I personally knew(I’m ‘peach’)…I knew I could return ‘home’ now…This revelation made the church true for me, what JOY!

  • Anonymous (there are too many of you.) I’m so glad to hear you are learning about the church. Don’t be too hard on the missionaries. When I served my mission in Georgia and South Carolina, I had never heard of Elijah Abel–I’m sure these missionaries haven’t heard of him either. Elijah Abel is one of my heroes, and I would like to make his story better known. Joseph T Ball is another hero of mine, and that’s why I want people to know he was the first black leader of an LDS congregation.

    Another early black Mormon of note was Walker Lewis. He joined the LDS church in the summer of 1843. He was probably baptized by Parley P Pratt in the fall of 1843. He was ordained and Elder by William Smith, Joseph’s younger brother.

    Lewis has a very interesting history. He was the son of slaves, and sued for his own freedom. His case is cited as the case which liberated slaves in 1783 in Massachusetts. Winning the court case resulted is his family being able to purchase property. He voted, was educated, and became upper class of black Massachusetts society. In 1826 he helped found Massachusetts General Colored Association which was the first civil rights abolitionist group in the world. In 1823, he because a freemason, and master mason. In 1829 he signed the form declaring independence from the mother lodge in London, making his lodge Black Lodge #1.

    He was well acquainted with 6 of the 12 apostles who had served missions in Massachusetts, including Wilford Woodruff, Brigham Young, Orson Hyde, Orson Pratt, Parley Pratt, and William Smith. Woodruff wrote in his journal that “He was an example for his more whiter brethren to follow.” Lowell Branch where he lived was saved because of his service. It is known that he traveled to Salt Lake City in Oct 1851.

    If you tell the missionaries this information about these early black Mormons, I expect they will be stunned. While a few church members know of Elijah Abel, almost nobody knows of Joseph Ball or Walker Lewis.

    I love Jesus, and I love our church. I wish we had a better record on race. We are improving, but we still have a long way to go. Armaund Mauss gives an interesting assessment of racial relations in a book titled “Black and Mormon.” I reviewed it at http://www.mormonheretic.org/2011/04/14/current-race-relations-within-the-lds-church/

    Don’t rush into baptism. It’s a big commitment, but I think it is a worthwhile one. Only become baptized when you feel the time is right. I’m sure the missionaries will be anxious to see you baptized, but trust in God. God will let you know when the time is right for you.

    I’d like to share a story from my mission. We taught a nice family (mother and 2 daughters) near Augusta, Georgia. I wanted dearly for them to be baptized before I returned home from my mission in June. (In fact, I just realized that I returned home 22 years ago today!) Mary said she would be baptized in September. I don’t know what her reasons were, but September meant something very important to her. I was able to return to my mission for her baptism, and it was a wonderful experience. I still keep in contact with her and her children (who both have masters degrees from Georgia Tech now!) You’ll know when the time is right.

  • What I said elsewhere, but need to re-state:
    I believe in my religion, and I love it. The race issue is not a stumbling block for me; it is simply interesting history. It becomes a stumbling block for many, however, if someone perpetuates racist stereotypes in the present day in order to support Church policies of the past. It becomes a stumbling block if any Black person is told they are “cursed” because a well-intentioned Mormon simply doesn’t know better. It becomes a stumbling block if any LDS missionary sees the Lord’s children as divided into castes rather than as co-inheritors with Christ of all that the Father has–or if any member of a congregation to which a Black investigator is brought has similar notions.
    The center of the gospel is not this particular point of history. The center is the atonement of Jesus Christ. But if 19th century attitudes keep us from living the FULL and restored gospel in 2011, we must speak boldly, and then testify, as did Pres. Gordon B. HInckley in April 2006: “I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color, is ineligible?”

  • Anonymous

    I remember exactly where I was when I heard this news on our radio. I was folding clothes in an upstairs bedroom. I immediately fell to my knees and cried and thanked God. Due to my overwhelming gratitude it took a while for my tears to stop. It was most glorious news for me. At the time, I was 27, and was a life long Mormon, and southerner. I had long had issues with that policy, it seemed so unfair. I had heard the “Mormon Myth” reasons for it, but I didn’t, couldn’t accept them.

    Since that announcement, I think I might have come up with a reason for that policy that makes more sense than the ideas I had heard as I was growing up and asked why? As I seminary teacher, I came across D&C 134:12. The reason for withholding the Priesthood would seem to have at first stemmed from this…and would have been an essential thing in keeping the Church from being destroyed. The Saints did not own slaves and actively preached against it. This is one of the major poiitical reasons for their being run out of Missouri and Illinois. They were a political force that could have ended that barbaric practice in those states if they had the opportunity to vote on the matter. Why then, did the Church wait so long to overturn that practice after the Civil War…again, I think it was the Lord’s wisdom. If you didn’t live in the South in those years you wouldn’t know that it wasn’t only blacks who were persecuted…it was any white who dared “associate” with blacks. Any white church allowing blacks could be burned. Many churches were burned. It wasn’t til the mid seventies that the Civil Rights movement was well enough established that the LDS policy was changed.

    I have only my opinion to suggest this idea…it isn’t something I have ever heard expounded at conference or read in a Doctrinal Commentary. But I wanted to offer it in celebration of one of the most important revelations ever given, to my mind. The only similar one would be the one given to Peter in Acts 10:15:”What God has cleansed that call thou not common.” For Peter as head of the Church had been taught by Jewish tradition that Gentiles were unclean, so he only wanted to have the Jews in Christ’s Church. This revelation showed him otherwise.

    I have another opinion. It is that in these last days we will see many of African descent rise in profile and power both in the world and in the Church. These are some of those the Lord said who were last who will be last. The rise of the Church in Africa is the beginning of that, again, in my opinion.

  • Brad

    Great story, thanks.

    For those of you who take offense at the church’s policy prior to ’78 and think it was racist, then you must think the Lord is racist.

    The Lord only allowed the priesthood in the Old Testament to only a select tribe of people. Was that discriminatory? Yes, it was, as in selectively choosing. How about in the New Testament? God forbid even preaching the gospel to the gentiles, let alone give them the priesthood. What did it take? A vision to Peter, the prophet-president of the church, to open up missionary work to the gentiles. Hmnnn, sounds familiar.

    What is my point? My point is–as has been pointed out by some others–is that the Lord has a purpose and His own timetable which is not understood by us mortal men.

    Let’s say that you are correct, that the church was racist. Well, the church “corrected” that policy. So why can’t you accept that and go on with your life? You are ironically guilty of continually judging based on past actions like there is no such thing as repentance or corrective action. Would you like to be treated like that? Forever branded? So get over it already. Move on. All men can hold the priesthood. (*Gasp* women can’t?) We don’t practice polygamy anymore.

    I really believe that some people actively look for excuses to hold grudges against the church. That comes from thinking you are smarter than the Lord and know better. I guarantee you that when you finally meet the Savior fact to face on Judgment Day, you will be schooled on His decisions that you, in your puny mortal intelligence, judged to be racist or ___________________ (fill in the blank).

    The church is true. It is lead by a prophet of God. Hold to the iron rod.

  • Please, please refrain from speculation on the WHYs of the priesthood restriction. As Elder Oaks has said, such speculation has usually been “spectacularly wrong.” There is a world of difference from assigning one group (or tribe) to priestly tasks and EXCLUDING one group from the most precious blessings of the gospel. We are not the restored church of Moses but the restored Church of Jesus Christ. The New Testament is so clear in instructing us to call no person whom “God hath cleansed” (baptized) common, and the mandate to go unto “all the world” was direct and unequivocal. We will be restrained from taking the gospel to people in some places because of political dangers (some Muslim countries), but we must not be restrained from offering the full gospel and its attendant blessings and power to ALL who answer the invitation to come unto Christ. Not only must we not be restrained, we must preach and accept others whole-heartedly if we are to answer the Lord’s request. (“Lovest thou me?”)

  • Anonymous

    Brad, please be quiet. In the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

  • I agree with Margaret. I do think Brad is “spectactularly wrong.” Many people have tried to use scriptures to justify the ban, but in the words of Alma Allred, “I don’t believe that LDS scripture allows for a restriction against blacks’ holding the priesthood…Too many scriptures collide with those ideas for them to be valid.” Allred discusses popular scriptural justifications for the ban, and says why these justifications are incorrect. See http://www.mormonheretic.org/2011/04/11/using-scriptures-to-debunk-the-priesthood-ban/

    Certainly God is not a racist.

  • Armand Mauss in the book “Black and Mormon” discusses why these teachings of blacks are so hard to get rid of. (Brad actually mentioned one of them practically verbatim.) From page 106,

    “To repudiate any of the cherished religious lore of their immediate ancestors seems to some Mormons, especially the older ones, almost like a repudiation of the grandparents themselves, to say nothing of their teachers, who might have walked with God.”

    He goes on to discuss the 1978 revelation on page 107,

    “Thus, when the priesthood restriction policy was dropped in 1978, this change was not portrayed as an actual reversal, since several earlier church leaders had predicted it would happen. (Of course, several others, including Brigham Young predicted it would never happen.) Even with the earlier abolition of polygamy, the practice was only “suspended” and could be restored at any time, since the theological basis was left intact. This myth of continuity has the important function of validating the traditional claim of continuous revelation (which is canonical) and protecting the church against the charge of purely pragmatic and expedient change.

    The second cherished organizational myth is related to the first: the myth of history as time-filtered–the organizational equivalent of the old adage that “time heals all wounds”–and similarly dubious ideas. This myth is typically accompanied by an organizational posture of benign and selective forgetfulness. Thus, if the church progresses in a continuous, linear path by divine guidance, then contemporary realities and understandings replace those from the past, which will eventually be forgotten. Obsolete ideas and practices simply don’t count any more, even if they originated as divine revelations. Where discrepancies appear between the present and the past, there is no point in reminding ourselves about the past. Especially if an event in the past is embarrassing, then recalling it and dwelling on it, even if only to repudiate it, merely confuses the matter. Such negative thinking has no place in the Lord’s kingdom. If harm has resulted from earlier ways of thinking, then everyone involved should forgive everyone else and get on with construction a better future. Apologies or ringing declarations of disavowal should not be necessary, since few peoples or individuals have histories free of offenses against others, and thus few are in a position to demand apologies. With time, memories of these offenses will fade automatically, and we will all be better for it. Meanwhile, if we have not made the requisite changes, let’s not stir up useless and uncomfortable old memories.”

  • My Parents were baptized in February of 1973. 5 years before my father could receive the priesthood. I guess my family is looked at as Pioneers. There were not many black members of the church world wide let alone in Michigan. (In Michigan there were 12 and 6 of them were my family.) It takes a very special kind of people to realize the truth, not matter the hurdles that stand around it, and to walk in it anyway trusting that GOD WILL BLESS YOU AND YOURS for the obedience and faith. My father and Mother who both walked in that faith stood silently watching as other served our family by baptizing myself and my siblings when it was time and for being readily available when a blessing was needed. We were served with willing hands and full hearts. This church has loved our family into it. And faith has kept us here.
    I understand people feeling why they shouldn’t associate with the church because of it’s “racist” passed. My question to you would be… How can you live in the South with its’ Racist passed? Or in America with It’s Racist passed? Most people fail to realize most religions held the same kind of social graces during that time: Notice there is a 2nd Baptist Church? It was created for 2nd class citizens. And AME stood for Africa, Methodist Episcopalian. We still do consider many churches “BLACK CHURCHES.” Yet no one is speaking of them in terms of racism. One of the ONLY differences is that the LDS CHURCH made a PUBLIC PROCLAIMATION announcing the practices of the past are no more. It is not valid and it is wrong. Much Like slavery, Civil rights and what not. I can’t find any such Proclamation from other churches even if they no longer practice the racist traditions of their passed. They didn’t make a joyous announcement. They kept it under the table.
    I believe the Lord has a timeline and sometimes we want something now when the World will just mess it up at that time. In order for the WORLD to treat Ethnic people as equals the world had to evolve to a worthiness of respecting all people as equals. This would include religiously as well.
    I am proud to be a Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I’m Proud to be from a family that accepted the truths before the world was ready to see us as equals.

    Elijah Able was ordained a General Authority until the day he died. His Grandson and Great-Grandsons also held the priesthood. They stand as a witness of a restoration of how things should have been.
    Our prophets are still men. Even the best of men make mistakes especially in regards to atmosphere of the world and the times. Even Moses made mistakes and didn’t make it to the promised land but he no less a prophet then our Prophets of the passed. I say study the history of the church. Teach it to your children for generations so they KNOW the history and can be proud of how far we’ve come. And most of all don’t be afraid of discussing the passed history of the church. Shying away from the truth will make your doomed of repeating the mistakes of it.

  • We read all the comments and want to say thank you for talking the time to do so!!!!

  • This is wonderful!!Thank you for sharing this post. Our church is not immune from hubris. This article was very well thought out and I enjoyed reading it.

  • lemon meringue pie

    Why were blacks allowed to have the priesthood in the early days of the restoration only to have that privelege/right taken? Well, a parallel story might be: Why did women administer and give blessings to women until the 1950s? This was not uncommon–prophets condoned it and Wilford Woodruff (and other prominent church leaders )has several instances in his journal of he and his wife blessing their children. Why was this practice abolished as well? I have no answers to such difficult questions. Luckily, my testimony’s foundation rests on Christ as my Savior. The rest is gravy.  

  • Dpdavidson

    When Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, Adam made an altar and offered sacrifice. An angel came to Adam and asked him why he offered sacrifices and Adam replied, “I know not, save the Lord commanded me.” Moses 5:6
    Some call it blind obedience or feel like they have to explain or justify why they believe how they do. I call it absolute trust in the Lord, that he knows what is best and will not allow me or anyone who follows Him to be led astray.

  • John

    June 8, 1978, was exactly one month before I was to be married.  My wife to be and I both heard the announcement on our car radios.  Moments later we were both in front of my parent’s house discussing the exciting news!

    I served a mission from 1975 to 1977.  On several occasions I was in a situation where I needed to try to explain the position of the Church as it related to the ban.  Though I searched, I could never find a satisfactory answer.  I struggled with teaching we were all children of a loving Heavenly Father, while at the same time some of His children were denied full Priesthood blessings.  The only thing I knew for sure about the subject was that the day would sometime come.  I thought it might not happen until the Second Coming.  When I heard the great news, some of my first thoughts were that I was not ready for the Second Coming, and that I had better do more repenting.

    Thank you for the article, and best wishes in all of your righteous endevors.   

  • Kim

    Yeah, but the Lord didn’t order the GA’s to deny the Priesthood from African Americans…so, when the Angels come or the Lord speaks, then I follow, but I really wonder about items like this where there is no directive from the Lord….thank goodness we had a Prophet that understood the need to overcome this and one who would pray for the Lord to correct the Church, and have us follow HIS paths not our own.

  • Hildegarn

    So the priesthood was taken away? why?

  • Steve

    I served a mission to Venezuela from 1971-73, five years before the change in policy where all worthy men could hold the priesthood.  We spent 3 days at the mission home in Salt Lake City before leaving for the language training mission training in Provo.  While at Salt Lake City we had the  priviledge of listening to many general authorities.  We would then cross the street and eat our meals at the former  Hotel Utah.  It was there that a black gentleman got on top of a table and while we were eating bore his testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel and that someday he knew that he would be able to hold the priesthood.  The Spirit was as strong with this good brother as when the general authorities spoke.  I remember well when I first heard of the announcement that all worthy men could hold the priesthood.  Tears of joy came freely that day.   

  •  I love reading all these comments. I’m white (you might be able to tell from the picture 🙂 ) but it makes me emotional whenever I hear stories of faithful black members of the Church. I think it is because I have felt the truth of the Gospel deep within my soul, but I recognize that I have had an easy time accepting it compared to many (being white, born in the church, etc). People who are willing to look past offensive teachings about their race from the past and are still able to see the beauty and truth of the Restoration truly amaze me, because I know how hard it has been for me to keep my faith with only the secular-media world to deal with. It is really in the same way that I am amazed by stories of the Willy and Martin hand cart companies, many of whom died in their desire to make it to Zion. To me, you all are practically on the same level. God bless 🙂

  • Delila Perkins

    Can someone please connect me to the descendants of Elijah Able? I have just discovered he is my ancestor and I am so desperate to learn more about this amazing family!!!

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