#BlackHistoryMonth is ending and we close the month with Paul Reeve discussing two events which may have led Brigham Young to change his thinking with regards to blacks receiving the priesthood. A former slave named Warner McCary married Lucy Stanton, daughter of Nauvoo stake president William Stanton. The marriage was said to have been performed by apostle Orson Hyde. Following a meeting in which Brigham Young stated that race is not a problem, and Brigham knew of a fine African in Lowell, Massachusetts named Walker Lewis, it seems there was no ban in 1846. However, McCary started sleeping with other white women, claiming to be sealed to them through a sexual ritual in 1847. That’s when Parley P. Pratt claimed that blacks were cursed with regards to the priesthood. Another scandal involved William Appleby discovering a mixed race child born to Walker Lewis’s son Enoch and a white woman. He confronted Brigham Young about the child, and Brigham replied that the couple ought to be killed (though Young was often known for hyperbole.) More information can be found here. What do you think of Brigham Young’s reaction? Were you aware of these scandals?
Despite all this, Parley Pratt’s apostle brother, Orson, urged Utah not to legalize slavery. Apparently he debated very heavily with Brigham Young over the issue, and claimed “angels would blush” and church missionary efforts would be hurt if Utah legalized slavery. Brigham Young won the debate as Utah legalized slavery, but Orson Pratt in an effort of defiance, voted against the incorporation of Fillmore and Cedar City because the charters did not allow black voting rights in 1852, a decade before the Civil War! Paul Reeve recently discovered speeches by Orson Pratt, and I am amazed Pratt would advocate for such a thing. What do you think of Pratt’s position? Do you wish his advocacy of black rights was more well-known?
There seems to be a bit of a dispute: when did the ban actually begin? Warner McCary seems to be the last person who might have been ordained as late as 1846. Apostle Parley P. Pratt privately said blacks were cursed with regards to priesthood, and Brigham Young spoke forcefully that blacks were cursed in an 1852 address to the Utah Legislature. However, in 1879, church leaders didn’t know how to respond to Elijah Abel’s request to be sealed to his wife in the temple, and as late as 1921, Apostle David O. McKay didn’t even know that a ban existed. Dr. Paul Reeve believes the ban happened in 1908 when the prophet Joseph F. Smith declared that Elijah Abel’s ordination was declared invalid, though that information does not square with the historical record. Joseph F. Smith also instructed missionaries to quit proselyting among blacks. Many states had adopted a one-drop rule and the church followed suit as segregation became legally codified. What are your thought concerning these 1908 actions? Are you embarrassed by the ban? Are you heartened by Orson Pratt’s positions?