Lately Brigham Young seems to get the brunt of the blame for the ban banning blacks from priesthood and temple blessings.  It wasn’t always that way though.  Russell Stevenson, a Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University discusses Brigham Young speaking positively of a black elder in Massachusetts in 1846!

Russell:  When Brigham Young is addressing William McCary, he mentions explicitly the example of Walker Lewis in Massachusetts, and [Brigham] says [Walker] is one of the best elders that we have.  This is in the context that William McCary is talking about how unwelcome he is feeling within the Latter-day Saint community.  All of these different people are using the n-word to describe him.  They say, “There goes that old {n-word} and his white wife,” referring to Lucy Stanton who was the daughter of a former stake president.

Now the fact that Brigham Young would invoke the example of Walker Lewis as a way of assuring and maybe trying to make William McCary feel better about being within the Latter-day Saint community, that tells you that Brigham Young saw William McCary and Walker Lewis as being more or less equivalent in some regard or another, and certainly within the realm of holding the priesthood.

We will talk more about this man, named Walker Lewis, as well as a few other black people, and talk about why the ban was instituted in the first place.   It turns out there were three very scandalous interracial relationships involving Joseph Ball, Warner McCary, and Enoch Lewis discovered within a short period of time.

GT chuckles:  So We have William Smith ordaining a black man to be a high priest and branch president in Massachusetts, so my question is, going back to that whole thing, we have three very scandalous relationships going on, interracial relationships.  Do you think that part of the reason why Brigham stopped any temple work was to prevent any sort of temple marriage?

Russell:  Wait, when you say stopped any temple work…?

GT:  Temple marriage, sealings.  Because I guess I have a theory that Brigham Young put a stop to interracial marriage, period.

Russell:  Yes.

GT:  The best way to stop that is to say, “We’re not going to solemnize that in the temple.”  Do you think that’s a reasonable conclusion from these three experiences?

Russell:  I mean I think for him, the idea of any black man marrying any white woman was odious, so it would only follow, that’s even odious according to secular, natural law, let alone for the higher celestial law.  It was even more odious.  Now to be sure when he was interacting with William McCary and Lucy Stanton, he did not say any of these things to their face but that does not mean that he did not believe it because clearly it’s only a matter of about nine months later that he gave voice to these things.  I’m not going to say that over the course of nine months, these  ideas just sort of popped up on their own.  They probably existed at that time.  He just didn’t say them to their face.

So yes, I think that’s a reasonable conclusion.  Brigham Young sees this as a really awful kind of anti-humanity sort of practice, the kind of thing that kills off entire civilizations if it’s carried out to its natural extension.  So he said, I’m not going to legitimize this or solemnize this through temple ordinances.

This is a really important conversation and I hope you check it out.  Were you aware of these interracial relationships?

What’s so unfortunate for me is the fact that Elijah Ables and Walker Lewis were denied temple blessings because of these other three relationships.  We like to say we’re punished for our own sins and not Adam’s transgressions, but clearly Elijah was prevented from his endowment and sealing, despite his faithful service through the end of his life.  Elijah worked on the Salt Lake Temple.

Russell:  Now in 1879, he does petition to receive his temple endowment.  By this point his wife has passed away.  We do have some evidence that he petitioned Brigham Young at some point, but again that’s pretty late and we don’t have any contemporary documentation to back that up.

What are your thoughts?  Would you have been as faithful as Elijah?  Check out our conversation…..