Twentieth Century Attitudes
While Elijah Abel, along with at least one other black, had been ordained to the priesthood during Joseph Smith's life, Brigham Young took a different stand. He instituted a very strict rule that no blacks were to be ordained or given temple ordinances. Elijah Abel outlived Brigham Young and the validity of his ordination was repeatedly discussed by the brethren (see All Abraham's Children, p. 216). The rationalization for restricting blacks developed over a period of years. Scholar Armand Mauss observed:
. . . by 1908, as president of the church, [Joseph F.] Smith was now claiming that Abel's ordination (and presumably that of any other black) had been "declared null and void by the Prophet himself" . . . Also, during the generation after Brigham Young, three other important internal developments occurred that seemed to point to a divinely condoned racial restriction.
The first development was the formal canonization of the Pearl of Great Price, . . . in 1880. . . The second development, partly related to the first, was a fuller unfolding of the doctrine relating to premortal existence, . . . The third development was the gradual adaptation, . . . of historical theories glorifying the Anglo-Saxon heritage above others and claiming literal Israelite origins for the peoples of Great Britain and northwestern Europe. . . .
By the early twentieth century, these new doctrinal developments were available to provide confirmation, retroactive though it might have been, for the accumulated precedents that had denied black church members access to priesthood and temple rites after 1852. With the installment of Heber J. Grant as church president in 1918, no Mormon leader was still living who could remember when teachings and policies toward blacks had been otherwise. . . Finally, in an important 1931 book, The Way to Perfection, the scholarly young apostle Joseph Fielding Smith . . . synthesized and codified the entire framework of Mormon racialist teaching that has accumulated . . . Integrating uniquely Mormon ideas of premortal decisions about lineage with imported British Israelism and Anglo-Saxon triumphalism, [Joseph Fielding] Smith in effect postulated a divine rank-ordering of lineages with the descendants of ancient Ephraim (son of Joseph) at the top (including the Mormons); the "seed of Cain" (Africans) at the bottom; and various other lineages in between (All Abraham's Children, pp. 216-217).
Writing in 1935 Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith, who later became the 10th president of the LDS Church, explained the curse on Cain:
Not only was Cain called upon to suffer [for killing Abel], but because of his wickedness he became the father of an inferior race. A curse was placed upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures. Millions of souls have come into this [p. 51] world cursed with a black skin and have been denied the privilege of Priesthood and the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel. These are the descendants of Cain. Moreover, they have been made to feel their inferiority and have been separated from the rest of mankind from the beginning. Enoch saw the people of Canaan, descendants of Cain, and he says, "and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people." . . . In the spirit of sympathy, mercy and faith, we will also hope that blessings may eventually be given to our negro brethren, for they are our brethren—children of God—notwithstanding their black covering emblematical of eternal darkness (The Way to Perfection, by Joseph Fielding Smith, Genealogical Society of Utah, 1935, pp. 101-102).
LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, son-in-law of President Joseph Fielding Smith, wrote:
Those who were less valiant in pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality are known to us as the Negroes. Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God and his murder of Abel being a black skin (Mormon Doctrine, by Bruce R. McConkie, Bookcraft, 1958 edition, pp. 476-477; in second edition, 1966, p. 527; removed from 1979 edition).
In 1949 the LDS Church First Presidency issued an official statement on priesthood denial to blacks:
The attitude of the church with reference to the Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time (as quoted in Black Saints in a White Church, p. 24).
In 1964 LDS Patriarch Eldred G. Smith stated:
I had a young lady who was blonde, a[n]d no sign or indications visibly of the Negro line at all, but yet she was deprived of going to the Temple . . . We have these conditions by the thousands in the United States today and are getting more of them. If they have any blood of the Negro at all in their line, in their veins at all, they are not entitled to the blessings of the Priesthood . . . No limit as to how far back so far as I know ("What is a Patriarchal Blessing?," speech at LDS Institute of Religion, Salt Lake City, Jan. 17, 1964, p. 8).
In 1966 Wallace Turner, a reporter for the New York Times, wrote the following:
The most serious problem facing the LDS church today is the Negro question. The church has successfully become everyman's church—except it cannot be the African Negro's church. A man can have skin black as a moonless night—and he can be a full-fledged member of the Mormon priesthood. But he can have blue eyes, white skin and blond curly hair and have an African Negro in his ancestry and find himself rejected by the Mormons as an applicant for priesthood. A Negro can join the church. But he may not move a step further. For the African and his children's children the doctrine of eternal progression has little meaning. The doctrine of marriage for time and eternity is for others, not for them. The mortal existence offers lesser opportunity for the improvement of their souls than for other races.
The Negro is barred from the priesthood purely on racial grounds. As we untangle the theology, we must always remember that every devout male Mormon—except the Negro—is expected to become a member of the Aaronic priesthood as a boy of twelve years and a member of the Melchizedek priesthood at eighteen or twenty years . . . The Mormons consider that male membership in the priesthood is a requisite for higher place in the Celestial Paradise. But Negroes are barred from this advancement. Priesthood membership is a requisite for an office in management of the church's temporal affairs. So Negroes are barred from office. As we will understand in the unraveling of the theology, the Mormon discrimination against the Negro is the ultimate that can be had on racial grounds . . . The Negro Mormon can hold no office whatsoever in a church which offers some office to every one of its male members at some time in his life. A gray-haired Negro Mormon who may have spent his adult life in the [p. 52] careful practice of all the complicated and demanding rules set down by the LDS church stands disenfranchised before the altar where a youth whose beard is just beginning to fuzz may preside. A twelve-year-old may become a member of the Aaronic priesthood, more than this Negro man has been able to achieve through a lifetime of devotion. To hold any church office, a Mormon must be a member of the priesthood.
There is an even deeper disability for Negro Mormons. They are barred from the Temple. This has great significance. It means they cannot have a Temple wedding. Nor can they have their Temple endowments. Nor can they have their children and their wives "sealed" to them for eternity . . . Mormonism is a total way of life. A devout Mormon never really leaves his religious shell as he goes about his life in the secular world. So he never really leaves the feeling that black skin makes a man inferior. This means that the LDS church actually is one of the most influential organs of racial bigotry in the United States. All the imposing list of wonderful and truly praiseworthy things about this tremendous and impressive institution helps to conceal this ugly corner of its theology. When one hears the Tabernacle Choir, one forgets that no Negro could ever hope to achieve a place in that group. When one listens to the gentle voice and kindly expressions of David O. McKay, one forgets that no Negro can ever hope to become president of the LDS church. Yet throughout the religious institution which produced the Tabernacle Choir and David O. McKay there exists a current of powerful strength that for generations has carried racial bigotry wherever the missionaries carried the Restored Gospel of Joseph Smith.
True, this is all done in a cloak of Christian piety and concern for the brotherhood of man. Seldom is there any surface cruelty (The Mormon Establishment, by Wallace Turner, Houghton Mifflin, 1966, pp. 218-219, 243-245).
Although Wallace Turner's observations were made more than a decade before the church granted the priesthood to blacks, such public criticism undoubtedly had a significant impact on church leaders. Besides publishing a book, Turner also wrote numerous articles for the New York Times about the LDS Church and its racial teachings.
Blacks not Proselytized
While there was no restriction on blacks joining the LDS Church, there was no direct effort to evangelize them. Apostle Bruce McConkie, writing in 1958, declared:
Negroes in this life are denied the priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty. The gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to them . . .
Negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned . . . (Mormon Doctrine, by Bruce McConkie, Bookcraft, 1958 edition, p. 477; changed in later editions).
William E. Berrett, Vice Administrator of the Brigham Young University, explained: "...no direct efforts have been made to proselyte among them" (Mormonism and the Negro, by John J. Stewart, supplement by William E. Berrett, Horizon, 1978, part 2, p. 65).
However, the Bible offers salvation and baptism to all mankind, regardless of race. Jesus told his disciples to go "into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). Jesus also said "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19).
In the book of Acts, Philip was commanded to preach the gospel to an Ethiopian (a black) who was then baptized (Acts 8:26-39).
In the National Observer for June 17, 1963, the following appeared:
It's hardly a surprise then that the Mormon Church has only a few hundred Negroes on its rolls. And, though Mormon missions seek new members in most parts of the world, its voice is strangely silent in the Negro nations of Africa.
During this time LDS missionaries were instructed to avoid contacting blacks and known black areas. Dr. Glen Davidson reported in The Christian Century:
Mormon missionaries are directed not to proselytize Negroes and to keep out of "areas of transition." Not even Joseph Fielding Smith's [p. 53] invitation to "darkies" is tolerated in the mission program. The membership ranks are being filled with those whose religious commitment is to the maintenance of a racist society and who find Mormon theology a sanctimonious front for their convictions (The Christian Century, Sept. 29, 1965, p. 1183).
In 1967 N. Eldon Tanner, a member of the First Presidency of the LDS Church, was very emphatic that blacks could not receive the priesthood:
"The church has no intention of changing its doctrine on the Negro," N. Eldon Tanner, counselor to the First Presidency told SEATTLE during his recent visit here. "Throughout the history of the original Christian church, the Negro never held the priesthood. There's really nothing we can do to change this. It's a law of God" (Seattle Magazine, December 1967, p. 60).
A growing number of members were questioning the LDS doctrine and practice relating to blacks. Grant Syphers sent the following letter to Dialogue:
In all humility I must say that God has not inspired me to feel good about the Church's practices regarding Negroes. In fact, I have come to feel very strongly that the practices are not right and that they are a powerful hindrance to the accepting of the gospel by the Negro people.
As a result of my belief, when my wife and I went to San Francisco Ward's bishop to renew our temple recommends, he told us that anyone who could not accept the Church's stand on Negroes as divine doctrine was not supporting the General Authorities and could not go to the temple. Later, in an interview with the stake president we were told the same thing: if you express doubts about the divinity of this "doctrine" you cannot go to the temple (Dialogue, vol. 2, no. 4, Winter 1967, p. 6).
Jim Todd wrote the following in the University of Utah paper, the Daily Utah Chronicle:
The tragedy of this denial of the LDS priesthood is not that it is unfair to the handful of Negroes actually in the LDS Church. The odious part of this doctrine is that it serves to rationalize all other forms of temporal discrimination. Therefore, this denial indirectly affects all Negroes who come in contact with members of the LDS Church. . . .
People who have been taught since childhood that Negroes are "cursed by God" and therefore cannot hold the priesthood, probably find it perfectly natural to conclude that Negroes must be inferior—why else would God curse them?—and could not possibly make desirable neighbors, business associates, or sons-in-law.
The indirect cost of this doctrine in human misery and wasted potential can only be guessed at (Daily Utah Chronicle, University of Utah, November 22, 1966).
Summary of LDS Teaching on Blacks
Prior to 1978 the LDS teaching concerning blacks could be summarized as follows: In the "pre-existence" certain spirits "lent an influence to the devil" and displayed a "lack of integrity to righteousness." Because of their "unfaithfulness in the spirit world," they were "cursed under the cursing of Cain" and cannot "hold the Priesthood of God." Cain became "the father of an inferior race." The unfaithful spirit children were assigned to be born through "the accursed lineage of Canaan" and "through the loins of Ham." Those cursed are "marked" with a "flat nose" and a "black covering" which is "emblematical of eternal darkness." They are a "vile" and "inferior" race and "their intelligence stunted." In fact, they are a "representation" of the "devil" upon the earth. They are "not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned," and they are "not entitled to the full blessings of the gospel." They are "denied the priesthood," and they cannot be married in the temple. If a white person marries a black, it requires "death on the spot." But, "in spite" of all they "did in the pre-existence," they can be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. After all the rest of God's children have had an opportunity to receive the priesthood "then it will be time enough to remove the curse from Cain and his posterity." [p. 54]
Mission to Nigeria
On January 11, 1963, the President of the Mormon Church surprised the world by announcing that the Church was going to send a mission to Nigeria. Wallace Turner reported in the New York Times:
The Mormons are vigorous proselyters, maintaining missions all over the world, except in the Negro nations in Africa. They have a mission among the whites in the Union of South Africa.
Earlier this year a plan was announced to send a mission to Nigeria, but the mission has not left Salt Lake City (New York Times, Western Edition, June 7, 1963).
The mission was not allowed to proceed due to the fact that the Nigerian government viewed the Mormons as racists and refused to grant visas to LDS missionaries. This developed from a number of articles in the Nigerian Outlook attacking the Mormon position on blacks.
A Nigerian student, who was attending college at San Luis Obispo, California, attended a Mormon meeting and encountered their racial teachings. He later wrote an article for the Nigerian Outlook condemning the Mormon Church:
The student invited me to their prayer meeting the following Sunday . . . I was intrigued and went out of curiosity. I did not want to sit with the congregation. The white boy sat with me behind the large curtains that span the width of the very large hall. . . .
When their prayers broke up I was introduced to the leader of the Church in the city. . . . But the evening got ruined when my curiosity again started wandering away. . . . An innocent question popped out: "Why have you no mission anywhere in Africa except in South Africa?" Mr. Roy said: . . . "It is our article of faith that the Negro was cursed by God and this makes him unworthy to hold the office of a priest or elder in our Church."
UNGODLY RACE SUPERIORITY
I can't tell you here now how long we talked. But it was over three hours. In the end he lent me one of the most important books of their religion— Mormonism and the Negro [by John J. Stewart]. I did not eat or sleep until I finished reading the book. The following day I returned the book to him. When he asked me what I thought of the book I told him it was fatuous.
Their God is not our God. I do not believe in a God whose adherents preach the superiority of one race over the other. And this is what the Mormons preach.
The BIG Question is: why should the Mormons leave proselytizing among the Negroes in America and decided to go to Nigeria? The statement by one of the Mormon leaders about a "cautious and guarded approach" to proselyting actively among Negroes, in Nigeria should make Nigerians "cautious and guarded" too. Nigeria has the largest Negro population in the world (seconded by U.S.A.).
The Mormons could by trickery establish a church in Nigeria and use this as massive propaganda for propagating and spreading their religion of race hate and race superiority and discrimination in America.
Some may say that they want to change their policy. I do not think this would be a correct assumption. Why, let them start in America where Mr. Smith started his religion with his wife and relations-in-laws barely 100 years ago. Let them first of all make themselves acceptable to the Negroes here in the States before venturing to distant Nigeria (Article by Ambrose Chukwu, Nigerian Outlook, Enugu, Nigeria, March 5, 1963; see photo of entire article on pages 56 and 57 below).
Since there were already thousands of Nigerians interested in joining the LDS Church, the ban on missionaries created a leadership vacuum. An article in Time Magazine discussed the issue:
Pending a new revelation, possible at any time, Mormons are committed to a certain degree of built-in segregation: Negroes cannot be admitted to the church's priesthood. For this reason, Mormon missionaries have never tried very hard to make converts in black Africa. Yet Mormons also believe that Negroes may be admitted to the priesthood in heaven. This apparently is good enough for 7,000 Ibibio, Ibo and Efik tribesmen in eastern Nigeria, who have gone ahead to organize their own branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
. . . Fascinated by the dramatic life of the Mormon prophet, Anie Dick Obot of Uyo decided to form a branch of the church in Nigeria, and wrote for more information to Mormon headquarters in [p. 55] Salt Lake City. Mormon leaders sent back books explaining their laws and doctrines, and in 1959 dispatched to Africa Elder Lamar Williams, who was much impressed by the Nigerian's zeal and orthodoxy. Since then, the Nigerian Saints, governed by Obot and a council of 75 elders, have established branches in six cities.
Church chiefs are somewhat at a loss on how to deal with their new African converts, especially since the Nigerian government will not give resident visas to any missionaries from the U.S. . . . One problem now is that in the absence of supervision from Utah the Nigerian Mormons practice polygamy—forbidden in the U.S. church since 1890—and the converts already seem to have established their own black hierarchy, priests and all (Time, June 18, 1965, p. 56).
Writing for The Christian Century, Dr. Glen W. Davidson observed:
Most of the Mormon hierarchy did not regret their inability to send missionaries into "black Africa" nearly as much as they regretted the unfavorable publicity (The Christian Century, September 29, 1965, p. 1184).
During the 1960s and early 1970s there were demonstrations and extensive articles denouncing the LDS teaching on blacks.
In the Western Edition of the New York Times for June 7, 1963, Wallace Turner stated that the LDS Church leaders were seriously considering the consequences of making a change:
SALT LAKE CITY, June 3—The top leadership of the Mormon church is seriously considering the abandonment of its historic policy of discrimination against Negroes. . . .
Because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a lay priesthood to which almost every adult male member belongs, the effect has been to limit Negroes to second-class membership. . . .
One of the highest officers of the church said today that the possibility of removing this religious disability against Negroes has been under serious consideration.
"We are in the midst of a survey looking toward the possibility of admitting Negroes," said Hugh B. Brown, one of the two counselors serving President David O. McKay in the First Presidency of the Mormon Church.
"Believing as we do in divine revelation through the President of the church, we all await his decision," Mr. Brown said (New York Times, June 7, 1963).
In 1963 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People threatened to picket the LDS Church. On October 5, 1963, the Deseret News reported:
Albert B. Fritz, NAACP branch president, said at a civil rights meeting Friday night that his organization promised not to picket the 133rd Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church on Temple Square.
He added, however, that the NAACP will picket Temple Square, next Saturday if the Church does not present an "acceptable" statement on civil rights before that day (Deseret News, Oct. 5, 1963).
The next day, October 6, 1963, Hugh B. Brown stated in the LDS Church Conference:
We believe that all men are the children of the same God and that it is a moral evil for any person or group of persons to deny any human being the right to gainful employment, to full educational opportunity, and to every privilege of citizenship (as quoted in Dialogue, Summer, 1968, p. 4).
However, two months later, Apostle Ezra Taft Benson declared that the civil rights movement was part of a "Communist" conspiracy. The Deseret News reported:
LOGAN, UTAH—Former agriculture secretary Ezra Taft Benson charged Friday night that the civil right's movement in the South had been "fomented almost entirely by the Communists."
Elder Benson, a member of the Council of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in a speech at a public meeting here that the whole civil rights movement was "phony." . . .
"The pending 'civil rights' legislation is, I am convinced, about 10 per cent civil rights and 90 per cent
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[p. 58] a further extension of socialistic federal controls." Elder Benson said, "It is part of the pattern for the Communist take-over of America" (Deseret News, December 14, 1963).
In a 1966 thesis for the University of Utah, David L. Brewer made this comment:
As events in the modern world have brought greater awareness of the disprivilege often associated with non-Caucasian status, the Utah situation has become significant for two reasons: (1) Before 1964, the year this study began, Utah was the only "Northern" state without civil rights legislation. (2) The Mormon church, which prevails in Utah, does not accord religious equality to Negroes ("Utah Elites and Utah Racial Norms," Ph.D. thesis by David Leslie Brewer, University of Utah, August 1966, p. 160).
Writing in 1963, D. H. Oliver, a black attorney in Utah, stated:
By reason of their numerical strength the Mormons elect most of the public officials, through the entire state, and here is where conflict begins. In most instances these elected public officials, conscious of the spirit concealed behind the walls of the Temple, adhere strictly to the doctrines of their church in the performance of their public duty and thereby refuse to employ or appoint any Negroes in any position of authority or trust.
. . . it is claimed that the failure of the 35th session of the Utah Legislature to pass any Civil Rights legislation was due to hidden and behind the scenes opposition from the Mormon Church. . . . Any church has a right to believe what it will but it has no right to impose those beliefs on others against their will, and when those beliefs are detrimental to the welfare of others to the extent of infringing on their right to earn a decent living, such a church has no right to use the machinery of the state to enforce those beliefs (A Negro On Mormonism, by David H. Oliver, 1963, pp. 30-31).
LDS scholar Jessie L. Embry wrote:
In 1963 the First Presidency tried with limited success to separate priesthood exclusion from the Civil Rights movement. In an official statement, they said: "During recent months, both in Salt Lake City and across the nation, considerable interest has been expressed in the position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the matter of civil rights. We would like it to be known that there is in this Church no doctrine, belief, or practice that is intended to deny the enjoyment of full civil rights by any person regardless of race, color, or creed." Church observers generally agree that this statement was made because the NAACP had threatened to picket Temple Square. The statement, a concession that prevented such action, continued by affirming equal opportunities in housing, education, and employment while still maintaining the right of the church to deny priesthood.
Just a few weeks after this statement was issued, Joseph Fielding Smith, the son of Joseph F. Smith and later church president, told Look magazine, "‘Darkies' are wonderful people and they have their place in our church." The next year he stated that "the Lord" established priesthood denial.
In 1965 the NAACP, noting that the church-owned Deseret News had not endorsed a state civil rights bill, threatened to picket the church's administration building. The newspaper responded by confirming the 1963 church statement, and the state legislature passed the public accommodations and fair employment acts. Yet not all church leaders supported civil rights. Ezra Taft Benson, then an apostle and later church president, claimed that the movement was "fomented almost entirely by the communists."
As the Civil Rights movement made gains nationwide, Mormonism's exclusionary policy came under repeated attack. . . .
Coupled with national pressure came growing dissent from within the church. Lowry Nelson, a Mormon sociologist, wrote to the church's leadership in 1947 protesting the exclusionary policy. In 1952 he announced his public opposition in Nation. Sterling McMurrin, a philosophy professor at the University of Utah, also corresponded with LDS church leaders and spoke against the Mormon view of blacks during the 1960s (Black Saints in a White Church, pp. 24-26).
Tensions continued to mount and in the spring of 1965 the NAACP led a march "from the federal office building [in Salt Lake City] to the steps of the [LDS] church administration building" (The Christian Century, Sept. 29, 1965, pp. 1185-1186).
[p. 59] The Deseret News reported:
About 250 persons demonstrated in front of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offices Sunday, asking for a statement on civil rights. . . (Deseret News, March 8, 1965, p. B11).
At the April 1965 LDS General Conference, Apostle Ezra Taft Benson declared:
What are we doing to fight it? Before I left for Europe I warned how the Communists were using the civil rights movement to promote revolution and eventual takeover of this country. When are we going to wake up? What do you know about the dangerous civil rights agitation in Mississippi? Do you fear the destruction of all vestiges of state government?
Now, brethren, the Lord never promised there would not be traitors in the Church. We have the ignorant, the sleepy and the deceived who provide temptations and avenues of apostacy for the unwary and the unfaithful, but we have a prophet at our head and he has spoken. Now what are we going to do about it?
Brethren, if we had done our homework and were faithful we could step forward at this time and help save this country (Salt Lake Tribune, April 7, 1965, p. A-5).
However, when this speech was printed in the official LDS magazine, The Improvement Era, this portion was edited to leave out the part about the Communists. It was changed to read:
What are you doing to fight it?
Brethren, if we had done our homework and were faithful, we could step forward at this time and help save this country (Improvement Era, June 1965, p. 539).
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. was born in 1929 and was ordained a Baptist minister in 1948. He received his Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Boston University on June 5, 1955, and later that year he led the boycott on the Montgomery bus system:
Mrs. Rosa Parks, a 42 year old seamstress, refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery bus and was arrested. Dr. King became involved in the incident. As a means of protest the Montgomery Improvement Association was organized, December 4, 1955. Dr. King was elected president. On December 5, 1955, the famous boycott was started. This was the catalytic event which started Dr. King on the road to become America's crusader and most famous civil rights leader (Long Island University web site, http://www.liu.edu/cwis/cwp/library/mlking.htm).
In 1963 he led a march on Washington, D.C. and gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. In 1964 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The next four years were crowded with speeches, marches and attempts on his life. The day after his April 3, 1968, speech, "I've Been to the Mountain Top," in Memphis, Tennessee, he was shot while standing on the balcony of his hotel.
Shortly after his murder several people began lobbying to get a nationally recognized holiday named in his honor. After many years of debate, on November 2, 1983, the U.S. government finally passed into law the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, to be celebrated on the third Monday of January each year. The first national celebration was on January 20, 1986. While the state of Utah established such a holiday in 1986, the name was changed to "Human Rights Day." Part of the resistance to name the holiday after Dr. King was the prominent Utah view that Dr. King was unworthy of such an honor. Apostle Ezra Taft Benson had implied that Dr. King was a communist and stated that the civil rights movement was part of a communist conspiracy. D. Michael Quinn wrote:
In response to U.S. president Lyndon Johnson's designation of 7 April as a national day of mourning for Reverend King, Apostle Benson immediately prepared a statement for distribution which complained that "the Communists will use Mr. King's death for as much yardage as possible." Benson's hand-out continued that "Martin Luther King had been affiliated with at least the following officially recognized Communist fronts," and listed three organizations. Benson was simply repeating the Birch view of King. . . . in his talk to BYU's devotional in May 1968 Benson accused the [p. 60] U.S. Supreme Court of treason. He added that "a prerequisite for appointment to high government office today is one's past affiliations with communist fronts or one's ability to follow the communist line." Benson's address to BYU students also quoted three times from the Birch Society's official magazine, including references to "black Marxists" and "the Communists and their Black Power fanatics" ("Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts," by D. Michael Quinn, Dialogue, vol. 26, no. 2, p. 64).
It wasn't until 2000 that Utah Governor Mike Leavitt signed into law a bill adopting the regular holiday name of "Martin Luther King Day" (see "Utah Designates Dr. King's Birthday a Holiday; Last State To Adopt The Day," Jet, April 24, 2000).
While some Utah schools close on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Utah State Legislature continues to open its session on this day each year. Writing for the Utah State University paper, The Statesman, Denise Albiston observed:
The Utah Legislature does not observe Human Rights Day, a day in Utah that is meant to replace Martin Luther King Jr. Day, said Ross Peterson, director of the Mountain West Center for Regional Studies.
"For [the Utah Legislature] not to recognize this day just seems ignorant of other races and cultures," said Doug Beazer, secretary of the Black Student Union at Utah State University. "It seems like they're so involved in a white, predominantly religious society and don't care about America as a whole, just the one small group. . . ."
Many state and public offices will be observing Human Rights Day, however, the Legislature begins sessions on this day each year and public school classes are usually also in attendance.
The conflict in Utah not only stems from this day being nationally recognized as Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Utah's desire to change it to Human Rights Day, but also because the Legislature doesn't truly observe the day, said Gabe Carter, president of the Black Student Union. . . .
When using the phrase "human rights," it seems like Utah is trying to incorporate more people into the holiday, but failing to recognize that Martin Luther King Jr. was the fundamental character of the '60s is unfortunate, Beazer said. . . .
Various states reacted to the national declaration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in a variety of ways and Utah was one that decided to observe Human Rights Day instead, Peterson said. . . .
"It speaks poorly of the Utah Legislature not to recognize this holiday in any form. . . ." Carter said. . . .
Peterson said, "It ought to be King's day, it ought to be observed, and the Utah Legislature should come into session on Tuesday. Without King, it doesn't tell the whole story" ("Some Say Utah Lacks Recognition of Human Rights Day," by Denise Albiston, The Statesmen, Utah State University, January 16, 2004).
Is King a Mormon?
We are not aware of any particular interest on the part of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to join the LDS Church. However, on at least four different occasions his name has been submitted to the LDS Church for temple ordinances. In both 1991 and 1992 someone was baptized and performed an endowment ceremony in his behalf. His name was again submitted for baptism in 1993 and 2004. Evidently the LDS temple records are not well enough organized for them to know that the work had already been done.
King is not the only prominent black to be offered post-mortal membership in the LDS Church. In both 1991 and 1993 someone was baptized in behalf of famous black activist Malcolm X, a Muslim convert from a Baptist home. His full name was Malcolm Little, born in 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. His temple endowment was performed on January 25, 1992.
Two early black activists that have had temple baptism and endowment ordinances performed for them are David Walker and Frederick Douglass.
David Walker was born in 1785 and died in 1830 "under mysterious circumstances." He had urged slaves to "resort to violence when necessary to win their freedom" (see www.africawithin.com). His baptism and endowment were performed in 1991.
Frederick Douglass, born in 1817 and died in 1895, was "a leader in the abolitionist movement and the first black citizen to hold high rank (as U.S. minister and consul general to Haiti) in the U.S. government" (see www.americaslibrary.gov). His records show that [p. 61] as early as 1906 someone had performed his baptism. Proxy baptism was again performed in 1988, 1991, three times in 1992, three times in 1993, and three times in 1994. His endowments have been done for him about a dozen times and he has been sealed/married to two different women (see Appendix D).
Since blacks could always be baptized in the LDS Church the question arose in South Africa in the early 1900s as to whether or not blacks could do baptisms in the temple for their dead relatives. Evidently leaders in South Africa were told that theoretically black converts could do baptism for the dead but local leaders were to be careful not to encourage emigration to the United States to accomplish this. It appears the leaders were worried about an influx of blacks to Utah since there were no temples in Africa. Newell Bringhurst wrote:
In 1852, the Latter-day Saints finally launched some proselytizing efforts in Africa—in Capetown, South Africa. But in contrast to other Christian denominations, the Mormons preached only to the white European immigrants, not the native blacks.
. . . For at least two reasons, missionary activity in South Africa came to a temporary halt in 1865—a suspension which lasted until 1903. This action was part of the Church's worldwide scaling-down of missionary efforts during the vigorous campaign waged in the United States against the Mormons and their peculiar institution of polygamy.
. . . the Boer War of 1899–1902, delayed the return of Mormon missionaries to South Africa until 1903. When Mormon missionaries finally returned, they continued to focus their efforts on South Africa's white population. Nonetheless, during the early 1900s, a significant number of black Africans were unexpectedly attracted to the Church. Local leaders were concerned: in 1903 H. L. Steed, president of the mission, wrote to Utah seeking advice on how to handle this unexpected situation which "he had not encouraged." Steed was told to "preach the gospel" to those blacks who expressed interest. But the intermingling of blacks and whites should be avoided and black members "should be encouraged to form branches composed of their own class of people."
Two years later, the "great many blacks [that] had become members of the Church in South Africa" also posed problems for B.A. Hendricks, the new president of the mission there. Hendricks asked Church leaders in Utah if black members could enter Mormon temples to be baptized and confirmed on behalf of their dead ancestors. This question was important because of the Church's ban on black priesthood ordination-a prohibition in effect since the late 1840s. In response, Church President Joseph F. Smith wrote [in 1910] that black Africans could enter Mormon temples in order to perform the ordinances of baptism and confirmation for their deceased relatives. At the same time, Smith told Hendricks not "to encourage the Negro saints of South Africa to emigrate to Zion in order . . . to do temple work in behalf of their dead." Like his predecessors, he reaffirmed the prevailing Mormon practice, that South African missionaries confine their efforts to "the white class of people" and avoid black Africans ("Mormonism In Black Africa: Changing Attitudes and Practices 1830–1981," by Newell Bringhurst, Sunstone, May 1981, p. 17).
Lester Bush commented on the situation in South Africa:
What of Negroes being baptized for the dead? President [Joseph F.] Smith could see "no reason why a negro should not be permitted to have access to the baptismal font in the temple to be baptized for his dead, inasmuch as negroes are entitled to become members of the Church by baptism." Consequently, the First Presidency informed the mission president that while it was not the current practice, they did not "hesitate to say that Negroes may be baptized and confirmed" for the dead ("Mormonism's Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview," by Lester E. Bush Jr., Dialogue, vol. 8, no. 1, Spring 1973, p. 39).
We have been unable to determine to what extent, if any, blacks were allowed to go to the temple to do baptism for the dead in the early part of the Twentieth Century. One would think that if any blacks in Utah had been allowed to do this it would have been mentioned in the various interviews of black Mormons in Kate Carter's 1965 pamphlet, The Negro Pioneer. But no such mention was made.
At least by 1954 blacks were not allowed in the temple to do proxy baptism. They evidently could submit the names of relatives for baptism but the actual [p. 62] ordinances were performed by white members. Speaking at a teachers' convention at BYU in 1954, Apostle Mark E. Petersen discussed the experience of the Hopes, a black family in Cincinnati:
Brother Hope asked me if it would be possible for him to have baptisms for the dead done in the temple on behalf of members of his family who had passed on. I went to President [Joseph Fielding] Smith and he said, "Yes, you get their records and we will take them over to the temple and have the baptisms done for them." I did, and we performed vicarious baptisms for these Negroes. Only the baptisms and confirmations—nothing else, but we did that much ("Race Problems—As They Affect the Church," by Mark E. Petersen, August 27, 1954; see Appendix B).
Armand Mauss points out that by the 1970s blacks were participating in baptisms for the dead:
After more than a century of having been nearly "invisible," Mormon blacks began to receive attention and promotional coverage in Church publications and social circles [in the 1970's]. The [Deseret] Church News had ignored almost entirely things black (or Negro) until 1969. The Index to the Church News for the period 1961-70 shows only one listing on the topic from July 1962 to January 1969, but several a year thereafter. Black singers began to appear with increasing frequency in the Tabernacle Choir, and one of these, a recently converted contralto, was also appointed to the BYU faculty. Feature articles about Mormon blacks began to appear in Church magazines. Blacks began to participate more conspicuously and perhaps more frequently in some of the lesser temple rituals (e.g., baptisms for the dead) (Neither White Nor Black, p. 163).
After 1978 blacks had full access to the temple and immediately started submitting the names of various dead relatives for temple ordinances.
From the late 1960s through the early 1970s students at various colleges protested against the LDS position on race. As more and more people questioned segregation, the LDS Church began to stand out as a very racist institution. In 1967 an article in the Los Angeles Times addressed this matter:
The deeply Mormon attitude apparently discriminating against Negroes because of their race is becoming a burning issue in that church—and beyond the church . . .
The increasing heat of racial pressures in the country has brought it into focus as one of the few uncracked fortresses of discrimination (Los Angeles Times, Aug. 27, 1967).
On April 14, 1968, the Arizona Daily Star reported that there was a boycott by eight blacks at the LDS Church's Brigham Young University:
The University of Texas-El Paso athletes stayed away from Saturday's competition at the church-operated BYU . . . They said there was a belief on the campus "that the blacks are inferior and that we are disciples of the devil". . .
President Hugh B. Brown, a member of the First Presidency of the Church, said the athletes are unclear on the church's doctrine denying Negroes membership in the Mormon Priesthood.
"At the present time we do not give Negroes the priesthood. Priesthood, in our view, is leadership. There is not enough leadership among Negroes to warrant establishing him as a member of leadership," President Brown said (Arizona Daily Star, April 14, 1968).
Apostle Hugh B. Brown's excuse, that blacks aren't given the priesthood because there "is not enough leadership," is shown to be inadequate since white teenagers could receive the Aaronic Priesthood. Major priesthood leadership in the higher Melchizedek Priesthood does not come until one is at least in his twenties. Were white teenagers better equipped for priesthood than an adult black who had been a member for his whole life? Surely there were some mature blacks that could have been given at least the same entry-level position as white teenagers. Granted, it takes time to train new converts in the protocol of Mormonism, but blacks who had been members for years were denied priesthood.
The year 1969 brought even more serious trouble for BYU. Steve Rudman reported on a protest at Arizona State University:
[p. 63] That evening 250 Arizona State University students, most of them black, marched militantly under torchlight, wearing black armbands and carrying placards protesting the allegedly racist policies at BYU. The group's leader, John Mask . . . led the demonstrators in an evening-long chant, "down with BYU" and "Get Rid of the Racists.". . .
"The thing is" Mask said adamantly as he wiped the sweat from his face, "we know BYU is a racist school and we know the Mormons who run it are racist."
"BYU and the Mormons believe we are second-class citizens," echoed Dave Edhomes, another black demonstrator. "It says so in their scripture.". . .
Some of the Cougars were angry, some were mixed up; but most were hurt that they had been the objects of a racial protest. They had no idea at the time but the incident under Arizona's midnight sun on the evening of Oct. 4 was only the beginning of a full-scale racial upheaval and a bitter autumn of discontent . . . the BYU team bus rolled toward Laramie on a chilling Friday afternoon, Oct. 17 . . . at that moment in Laramie a crisis of intense magnitude was developing. Fourteen black football players, six of whom were starters, had been dismissed from the team by [Wyoming] Coach Lloyd Eaton.
Sympathizing with a Black Students Alliance protest of BYU, the players wished to wear black armbands in their game with the Cougars. Eaton had informed his players any open demonstration would not be tolerated.
Early Friday morning, wearing armbands, the players entered Memorial Fieldhouse to discuss the matter with Eaton. When he saw the blacks he threw them off the team . . .
Two hours before game time the BSA began its boycott. An original estimate of 50 to 60 students began to protest, but as kickoff time neared the number swelled despite cold weather and a blanket of snow on the ground . . .
"We know BYU and the Mormons demean a person on the basis of skin color. We can join their church but we can't advance because we are black. Now is that discrimination, or not?" Black asked . . .
The effect of this second protest was obvious in the Cougars' performance against the depleted Cowboys. Wyoming wiped out BYU, 40–7.
Embarrassed and frustrated, the Cougars dressed hurriedly and left Laramie, angry, dejected and stunned (Salt Lake Tribune, November 30, 1969).
On October 29, 1969, the following appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune:
PHOENIX, ARIZ. (AP) — Several Western Athletic conference athletic directors Tuesday warned of a possible break-up of the conference because of racial policies at Brigham Young University, the Arizona Republic reported.
"There is a distinct possibility that this could break up the WAC." Sports Editor Verne Boatner said he was told by a "prominent" athletic director . . . A telephone survey of seven of the eight ADs indicated BYU will be on the spot at the meeting, Boatner said . . . . . .
One AD reportedly said he'd "just as soon see" BYU withdraw from the conference.
In November Steve Rudman reported concerning the serious problems BYU was facing:
. . . tension festered around the Western Athletic Conference to the point that WAC Commissioner Wiles Hallow was forced to admit: "I think this thing is growing to crisis proportions.". . .
But while the winds of discord swirled through the league, the BYU campus remained unaffected . . .
Most students are unconcerned. They look at it as a matter that the church will have to decide. "You have to understand we are taught unquestioning obedience," said Jim Brield, a BYU junior . . .
Two days before facing BYU, San Jose State, with the backing of Coach Joe McMullen, unanimously voted to wear arm bands in the game with the Cougars . . .
Spartan defensive end Tony Jackson drafted the team statement. It was endorsed by San Jose's acting president, Hobert W. Burns.
Jackson, a black player, was baptized in the LDS Church when he was nine years old. He left the church, he said, when he discovered Mormon scripture teaches that black skin is a mark of the sin of Cain.
"I know about the church," Jackson said. "Negroes cannot hold the priesthood because they have black skin.". . .
[p. 64] Some irate BYU students decided black armbands were nonsense and voted to wear red armbands because San Jose does not actively recruit Indians . . .
But BYU's dean of students, J. Elliott Cameron, had a different opinion: "I think these BYU kids are real naïve. They don't realize what this means elsewhere" (Salt Lake Tribune, November 30, 1969).
On November 13, 1969, the Mormon Church found itself faced with a very embarrassing problem:
STANFORD, CALIF. (UPI) — Stanford University announced Wednesday it will schedule no new athletic or other competitions with Brigham Young University because of alleged racial discrimination by the Mormon Church . . .
President Kenneth Pitzer said Stanford . . . will not schedule any further meetings, including debates and other non-athletic competition.
"It is the policy of Stanford University not to schedule events with institutions which practice discrimination on a basis of race or national origin, or which are affiliated with or sponsored by institutions which do so," he said.
"Top officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sponsors BYU, have told Stanford University officials that the church currently has policies stating that no Negro of African lineage may have the right of priesthood" (Salt Lake Tribune, November 13, 1969).
Obert C. Tanner, professor of philosophy at the University of Utah, called Stanford's action "easily the sharpest criticism of the Mormon religion in this century" (Salt Lake Tribune, January 7, 1970).
On November 14, 1969, the Tribune reported that William Wyman, special assistant to President Kenneth Pitzer, stated that
if Brigham Young wants to play Stanford teams in the future the Mormon Church will have to "reinterpret God's word and establish doctrines compatible with Stanford's policy" (Salt Lake Tribune, November 14, 1969).
Ernest L. Wilkinson, President of BYU, was very disturbed with Stanford's action. In a speech delivered at BYU, Dr. Wilkinson stated:
During the past year or two, Brigham Young University has received national attention because of protests and boycotts involving our athletic teams . . . President Kenneth Pitzer . . . publicly announced to the nation that Stanford would no longer schedule competition with BYU . . . students from every state in the nation and 56 foreign countries have selected BYU as the university of their choice.
"Their color ranges from black to brown to yellow to white. Every race and so-called minority group is represented . . . True, there are not many black students on our campus. Just how many there are I do not know . . .
"Their decisions may have been based on their belief that their social life would be curtailed . . . as far as we know there is not a single negro family residing in the entire county in which BYU is located and this we are told by Negroes is an important factor in the decision black students make in not coming to BYU" (Daily Universe, Brigham Young University, December 15, 1969).
Many people felt that Dr. Wilkinson had misrepresented the situation at BYU. The following appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune on January 7, 1970:
In an open letter to the presidents of Stanford and Brigham Young universities, Obert C. Tanner, professor of philosophy at the University of Utah, criticized both university administrations . . .
In a comment directed toward the Brigham Young University president, he said "You should not say there is no discrimination at BYU. There is, and especially so, since it would attempt to identify God with this discrimination."
First Presidency Statement
In the midst of all the demonstrations against the LDS Church, some leaders felt the church needed to change its policy on blacks. According to D. Michael Quinn, Apostle Hugh B. Brown tried to get the priesthood ban lifted in 1969:
First Counselor Hugh B. Brown had been on record for six years as favoring an end to this ban. In 1969 he wrote of the denial of priesthood to those of black African ancestry:
[p. 65] Personally I doubt if we can maintain or sustain ourselves in the position which we seem to have adopted but which has no justification as far as the scriptures are concerned so far as I know. I think we are going to have to change our decision on that. The President says that it can come only by revelation. If that be true then it will come in due course. I think it is one of the most serious problems confronting us because of course it affects the millions of colored people. . . .
In November 1969 Brown privately lobbied Stanford University to delay their decision to boycott BYU. The night before Stanford's announcement, Brown told the university's vice-president that he expected the church to drop this restriction (The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, D. Michael Quinn, Signature Books, 1997, p. 14).
Quinn goes on to relate how Apostle Brown "was able to get a proposal allowing full priesthood for Blacks approved by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles." One of the apostles who signed this proposal was Spencer W. Kimball (who would officially change the ban in 1978). However, Apostle Harold B. Lee, who was absent from the 1969 meeting, quickly pressured "the Quorum of Twelve to rescind its vote. Then he pressured the first counselor to sign a statement which reaffirmed the priesthood restriction on blacks" (The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, p. 14).
On December 15, 1969, the First Presidency issued the following statement regarding race. This was printed in the Improvement Era, February 1970:
Letter of First Presidency Clarifies Church's Position on the Negro
December 15, 1969
In view of confusion that has arisen, it was decided at a meeting of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve to restate the position of the Church with regard to the Negro both in society and in the Church.
. . . we believe the Negro, as well as those of other races, should have his full constitutional privileges as a member of society, and we hope that members of the Church everywhere will do their part as citizens to see that these rights are held inviolate. Each citizen must have equal opportunities and protection under the law with reference to civil rights.
However, matters of faith, conscience, and theology are not within the purview of the civil law. . . .
From the beginning of this dispensation, Joseph Smith and all succeeding Presidents of the Church have taught that Negroes, while spirit children of a common Father, and the progeny of our earthly parents Adam and Eve, were not yet to receive the priesthood, for reasons which we believe are known to God, but which he has not made fully known to man.
Our living prophet, President David O. McKay, has said, "The seeming discrimination by the Church toward the Negro is not something which originated with man; but goes back into the beginning with God. . . .
"Revelation assures us that this plan antedates man's mortal existence, extending back to man's preexistent state."
President McKay has also said, "Sometime in God's eternal plan, the Negro will be given the right to hold the priesthood" (Improvement Era, published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, February 1970, p. 70-71).
As President McKay was incapacitated due to ill health (he died the next month), the statement was only signed by his two counselors, Hugh B. Brown and N. Eldon Tanner.
Quinn discussed the aftermath to this 1969 statement:
Brown did not accept gracefully the defeat of his effort to reverse the church's ban against African Americans. Less than a week after he had reluctantly signed Lee's statement, Brown told a San Francisco newspaper reporter that the church's priesthood ban against blacks "will change in the not too distant future." Known for "his fiery temper," Lee privately exploded on 27 December, saying that Brown had been "talking too much.". . . (The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, p. 15). [p. 66]
Unfortunately for the BYU athletes, the situation became worse. On January 6, 1970, the Salt Lake Tribune reported:
The president of the Tucson branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has requested permission to hold a protest rally at the University of Arizona before the Arizona-Brigham Young University basketball game Thursday.
Three days later the Salt Lake Tribune reported:
. . . Brigham Young University . . . lost to Arizona, 90-77, in a game marred by racial protest . . . With 1:40 to play in the first half, nine Negroes, some of them wearing black wristbands, walked out on the basketball floor while the game was in progress.
As the Negroes filed onto the court, play stopped and BYU Coach Stan Watts pulled his team from the floor. The blacks were on the court for only a few minutes, however, when police and security officers ushered them away . . .
Other student demonstrators broke a window and screamed, "Stop the Game" but that was the extent of the protest (Salt Lake Tribune, January 9, 1970).
Coach Stan Watts was deeply disturbed by the trouble his team encountered. Hack Miller reported:
Anyone who thinks that BYU players, being protested against, have no feelings in the fuss are a bit tilted in their thinking, Watts contends.
"At Tucson we had heard all day long about protests. We had security people with us. We were told we would be taken to a side entrance so we would not be molested.". . .
"One wonders, as we walked into the place, if the building would burn down, or be dynamited."
Of course there is concern—on both sides (Deseret News, January 10, 1970).
Just five days later the church's Deseret News carried these statements:
TUCSON, ARIZ. (UPI) — Some 3,000 University of Arizona students participated Wednesday in a two-hour rally, demanding that the school sever relations with fellow Western Athletic Conference member Brigham Young University.
Speakers at the rally, in front of the university administration building, called for the resignation of President Richard Harvill and demanded that charges be dropped against nine persons arrested at the Arizona-Brigham Young basketball game here a week ago (Deseret News, January, 15, 1970).
Much to the LDS Church's embarrassment, Sports Illustrated wrote an article about the protests:
Ending a 10-game ordeal on the road, the Cougars last week limped home to Provo, Utah with a 4–10 record, one of the worst starts in Stan Watt's lengthy coaching career. That was depressing enough of course, but the boys from "The Y" . . . were bedeviled by a special problem: a gathering wave of protest against a recently reaffirmed doctrine of the Mormon Church that Negroes be denied admission to priesthood. As much as the Cougars would like to ignore them, the protests have grown in intensity to the point where they have almost transcended all else.
"You try not to think about it," said one of the Cougars, "but it does affect your play. Sometimes there are calls—‘Look out, we're going to get you'—and other threats. And there's always tension in the stands."
"The thing that worries me and the boys" said Watts . . . "is how far will it go?" Then leaning over and lowering his voice, he added, "One of these days, you know, somebody might pull a gun or some thing.". . . This season's protests have included the wearing of black wristbands by some San Jose State players, the booing of the Y's dancing Cougarettes during the Quaker City Tournament in Philadelphia and the throwing of eggs on the floor at Arizona State. By far the most serious trouble, however, came on January 8, when the Cougars went to Tucson . . . Vandals poured lighter fluid on the gym floor and set it afire . . . All five Arizona starters—three of them black—wore black wristbands . . . the Arizona coach Bruce Larson, is a bishop in the Mormon Church, so, in effect, the Wildcat players and fans were protesting against their own coach . . . (Sports Illustrated, January 26, 1970, pp. 38-39).
On February 1, 1970, the Salt Lake Tribune reported on the demonstration at the BYU/Washington gymnastics meet:
[p. 67] SEATTLE (AP) — A garbage-throwing demonstration by about 20 blacks, protesting what one of them said was "racism" practiced by Brigham Young University, delayed the start of the gymnastics meet between Washington and BYU here Saturday afternoon.
The blacks walked onto a mat just before the first event and broke eggs and poured oil, catsup and salad dressing onto the mat, officials said . . . After tipping over chalk trays, throwing chairs onto the mat and throwing a pail of water into Hughs' face, the demonstrators departed (Salt Lake Tribune, February 1, 1970).
The Salt Lake Tribune for February 4, 1970, carried this article:
LARAMIE, WYO. — The Black Student Alliance of the University of Wyoming said Tuesday it will stage a nonviolent rally Saturday to protest the racial policies of the Mormon Church and Brigham Young University . . .
A spokesman for the BSA said: "This rally is necessary in view of the reaffirmation of the racist policies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
On February 6, 1970, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that at Fort Collins, Colorado, the BYU team met with a violent demonstration:
FORT COLLINS, COLO. — The most violent demonstration yet against Brigham Young University by black students protesting the Provo school's allegedly racist policies took place here Thursday night before, during and after the Cougars' 94-71 WAC basketball loss to a hot-shooting Colorado State University . . .
The protest of BYU by the blacks was expected to be peaceful, but it quickly turned into something much more as black students scuffled with Colorado State University police before the game began and after it was over.
The real violence, however, erupted at halftime when approximately 100-150 black students shuffled out of the stands and walked on the court.
The violence occurred as campus police tried to remove the blacks from the floor.
During the scuffle, a photographer from the Rocky Mountain News in Denver was struck on the head with a metal object and was taken to a Fort Collins hospital . . .
Fighting erupted in one corner of the court and shortly before the two teams were scheduled to come back on the floor to resume the game, an object described as a Molotov Cocktail, huge and flaming, was tossed on the court. It was quickly brushed off the floor by an alert attendant.
The game was delayed approximately 30 minutes, but it did not signal the end of the trouble.
Police broke up several fights after the game, some in the stands, and some outside the gymnasium . . .
Fans kept the players on their toes by tossing eggs onto the court at various times during the game. This required official time-outs, during which attendants were out to clean up the mess.
The Cougars, primary objects of the protest, had no better of a time on the basketball floor against the Rams, as they missed almost everything they threw at the hoop (Salt Lake Tribune, February 6, 1970).
The Salt Lake Tribune reported another demonstration against BYU in California:
SAN LUIS OBISPO (UPI) — Fifty to 75 demonstrators marched outside a wrestling match between Brigham Young University and Cal Poly Saturday night in protest of the alleged racial policies of the Mormon Church.
The group, which carried signs reading, "Stop Mormon Racism," was sponsored by the Black Students Union and the Students for New Action Politics (Salt Lake Tribune, February, 16, 1970).
Blacks at BYU
In trying to justify the lack of black athletes at BYU, President Ernest L. Wilkinson made this statement: ". . . we welcome black athletes at BYU provided they satisfy our entrance requirements and are willing to abide by our standards" (Daily Universe, Brigham Young University, December 15, 1969).
Tom Hudspeth, head football coach at BYU, was more forthcoming about the matter. He acknowledged that in the past blacks were discouraged from coming to BYU. He noted that one of the "rules" at BYU was that there would be no "inter-racial dating." The following appeared in the Daily Herald, published at Provo, Utah:
[p. 68] Springville—The protests and demonstrations which are being launched against BYU are just an easy entrance into other problems Negroes feel they have, Tom Hudspeth, head football coach, told the Springville Chamber of Commerce recently at an early morning breakfast meeting.
". . . We will not change our policies," he declared . . .
Coach Hudspeth pointed out that he has a young Negro man on the campus now, and they feel this is the time to bring him into the athletic program. "In the past we felt we should discourage the Negroes because we felt they would not be happy in the social situation here. We have certain rules and regulations which we won't change. They must meet academic standards. We will not allow inter-racial dating. We are only 35 minutes from Salt Lake City where there is a Negro community, and we are setting up appointments and introductions there.
"If this doesn't work out, we won't have to hang our heads; it wasn't meant to be" he declared . . .
"We felt we could work out something to relieve a little of the pressure. This is the only way we have changed our policy," he said . . .
Coach Hudspeth indicated that "a lot of people are mad at me right now because they feel we are giving in. . . . When we played Arizona State, they had to pay an extra $5800 for control. You can't take this out of a tight athletic budget and survive. We are trying to show the other universities that we want to cooperate with them" (Daily Herald, February 16, 1970).
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that another demonstration against BYU took place when the team went to play a game at New Mexico. Eggs and bags of liquid were tossed onto the floor. According to the Salt Lake Tribune
the liquid was said to have been kerosene by those clearing the hardwoods. It must have been something fairly strong—it took the sealcoat off the boards and left ugly marks 30 feet long and 10 or 12 feet wide (Salt Lake Tribune, March 1, 1970).
The next week students protested at a BYU/University of Washington game:
SEATTLE (UPI) — Student protesters ran riot over the University of Washington campus for more than an hour Friday but the crowd that had swelled to 2,500 broke up when word went out that police were on their way.
The students were protesting the refusal of the university to sever relations with Brigham Young University immediately. They claimed BYU is a "racist" school (Salt Lake Tribune, March 7, 1970).
On March 9, 1970, the Deseret News contained an article about the situation in Washington:
SEATTLE (UPI) — The University of Washington announced late Sunday night athletic relations with Brigham Young University would be dropped when present contracts run out in 1972 . . .
When informed of this action, President Ernest L. Wilkinson of BYU said the University of Washington had apparently broken its promise to take no action without conferring with BYU.
The next day the Deseret News printed another article about the matter:
The Black Students Union pressed the administration of the University of Washington for more concessions today, demanding that athletic ties with Brigham Young University be severed immediately . . .
"If there is good reason to end the contract in 1972 there is good reason to end it now," a Black student Union spokesman said.
Some 3,000 students, led by the BSU, paraded peacefully on the school's campus in Seattle Monday over the issue of alleged racism at BYU.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ernest L. Wilkinson, BYU president, said he was "surprised and shocked" at the step taken by the leaders of the University of Washington.
And Dr. John Hogness, executive vice president of the latter school, said the step was taken to protect the lives and safety of persons on the university campus.
The demonstrations "pose an extremely hazardous and explosive situation," Dr. Hogness said (Deseret News, March 10, 1970).
Finally, BYU realized it had to make some concessions. In the book, Brigham Young [p. 69] University: A House of Faith, Gary James Bergera and Ronald Priddis observed:
UTEP president Joseph Ray wrote to BYU president Ernest Wilkinson, "Without any suggestion at all of trying to run your business, I think your institution will be a thorn in the side of the [Western Athletic] conference until such time as you recruit at least a token Negro athlete. Until you do, all explanations that the charges [of racism] are not true will not carry the ring of conviction." . . .
Student senates at the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, University of New Mexico, Colorado State University, University of Wyoming, and other universities and colleges voiced their support of black students protesting policies and recommended severing athletic ties with the Mormon school. Students at the University of Hawaii, in a general student election, and the University of Washington's faculty senate took the same position. Administrations of at least five colleges and universities accepted such recommendations and refused to schedule further games with BYU. Among these schools were Stanford University, California State University at Hayward, and the University of Washington . . . The immediate response from BYU officials to the protests was to dismiss them as part of a communist-inspired ploy to undermine the stability of the United States. "These people aren't after us. They're after America," said Coach Watts . . . The BYU Alumnus provided details of the school's trouble in an article entitled, "Militants, Reds, Attack Y, Church." The article promised alumni that BYU would continue to "hold the line on principles despite the propaganda." President Wilkinson saw in the demonstrations a sign of an imminent apocalypse . . .
Because of pressure from the WAC presidents' council, as well as from demonstrators nearly everywhere BYU competed, school administrators revised their policy on black recruitment and began actively seeking key black athletes. The school's first black football player, Bennie Smith, enrolled in 1972, followed two years later by the school's first black basketball player, Gary Batiste. Smith later expressed disappointment in the promise of athletic recruiters that there was little racial prejudice on campus. "After you get here, it's a whole different story," Smith claimed. Batiste was suspended from the team before completing his first semester. It was five years before a second black player, Keith Rice was recruited for the basketball squad . . . Edward Minor of the Florida A & M instructional science department, who had been engaged in 1960 to teach classes at BYU during a summer session, had been reassigned when Wilkinson discovered that Minor was black. Wilkinson feared "that students and others [might] take license from [Minor's engagement as a guest lecturer] and assume that there [was] nothing improper about mingling with other races" (Brigham Young University: A House of Faith, by Gary James Bergera and Ronald Priddis, Signature Books, 1985, pp. 299-302).
Stanford's policy of not scheduling games with BYU stayed in place until after the 1978 revelation which allowed blacks to hold the priesthood. Bergera and Priddis commented:
At the time of the [1978 priesthood] announcement, only four American blacks and a handful of Africans were enrolled at BYU. During the three years following the announcement, the number of blacks rose to eighteen American and twenty-two foreign blacks . . . As a direct result of the priesthood revision, Stanford University decided in 1979 to remove its ban against athletic competition with BYU (Brigham Young University: House of Faith, p. 303).
The tense situation with regard to civil rights and BYU's problems during the 1960s caused a great deal of fear among the people in Utah. On January 10, 1970, the church's Deseret News reported:
Salt Lake Police are fully informed and capable of dealing with any organized, violent disruption of civil authority by extremist groups, should such action occur.
That was the thrust of the report given city officials and civic leaders at a meeting called Friday . . . to discuss public reactions to copies of a tape recording being circulated locally . . .
The tape was made at a national conference of radical and revolutionary organizations in Oakland, Calif., in July. About 4,000 advocates of [p. 70] Black Power, Brown Power, New Left and various other left-wing viewpoints attended . . .
Partially in response to inflammatory material on the tape, "as many as 50" groups in the Salt Lake area have sprung up with the purpose of mobilizing to protect property and preparing to defend against local revolutionary activities, Patrick said.
These groups are often lacking in essential leadership, tend toward vigilante action and, at best, offer a "patchy" response to the type of mobilization that would be needed in an emergency, Patrick said.
"When the citizens of this area become alarmed and if that alarm gets out of hand, mass confusion and hysteria could result," Patrick said . . .
Commissioner Barker said after the meeting that if any citizens wish to be useful in aiding police in preventing disturbance it would have to be done under "proper direction in a civil defense posture" (Deseret News, January 10, 1970).
On February 22, 1970, these statements appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune:
Chief Deputy Andrus said that communications have been intercepted which indicate that at least two militant minority groups are planning violence in the Salt Lake Area . . .
Every precaution to detect a possible outbreak of violence before it starts is being taken by both the city police and sheriffs office, Chief Deputy Andrus said.
"When the trouble comes, we will be ready to call in the U.S. Army to back us up," he said.
Policemen had been guarding the LDS Church office building, and it had been suggested that a reserve force of 1,000 men be added to the police force. Kenneth Wood, however, in a letter to the editor of the Deseret News, voiced his concerns:
Being a Salt Lake businessman and reserve police officer, I read with alarm your Deseret News editorial backing the public safety commissioner's plan to have a one-thousand-man reserve force in Salt Lake City . . . Mr. Barker would have an organized mob instead of a one-thousand-man auxiliary force (Deseret News, February 26, 1970).
On February 22, 1970, the Salt Lake Tribune carried the following:
FILLMORE, Millard County—Included in an emergency training program of the Millard County Jeep Posse is a riot control program calling for use of three-foot long riot sticks.
And because these sticks are not regularly available, students in the Millard High School shop class are doing their part in protec[t]ion of the town by constructing 22 sticks on lathes during class hours . . .
Insofar as riots are concerned Sheriff Steward has little fear of outside forces coming into the area . . . But Kenneth Hare of Fillmore, commander of the jeep posse, said of the riot training: "What would you do if you were down here and a bunch of those Black Panthers came down here to take over the town?"
The posse is just getting ready for something that may never happen, Mr. Hare said.
The following day the Salt Lake Tribune contained an editorial relating to the fear that was beginning to grip the people:
A movement to organize church groups and even entire parts of the city into "vigilante strike-forces" has been reported in Salt Lake City. Just what or whom this bungalow brigade is planning to "strike" isn't clear, one of the main reasons the idea of such a people's posse is so dangerous.
Once organized, the extra-legal legionaries might be worked into such a state of fear-fueled emotion that they would respond to bully boy missions most would have rejected as individuals. No matter what kind of patriotic sounding name is tacked on a group of citizen enforcers, it is still a common mob that flows as passion directs without reason and without jurisdiction.
Persons attempting to expand the vigilante-type movement in the Salt Lake area apparently are using scare tactics in an effort to create a threat that is long on fear but short on fact. We prefer to rely on the intelligence gathering facilities of legal government agencies for news of any overt attempts to foment trouble and take over the valley or the country. To our knowledge there is no such plan afoot and, if there were, lawfully established police could handle it better than a gang of neighborhood night riders" (Salt Lake Tribune, February 23, 1970). [p. 71]
On March 3, 1970, the Tribune warned of the dangers of vigilante groups:
FARMINGTON — Use of scare tactics, emotionalism and doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Stints [sic] as a means of forming neighborhoods into "vigilante strike-forces" was labeled dangerous and inadvisable by Davis County officials Monday.
The action following a briefing by Salt Lake County Civil Defense officials on the activities of a group known as Neighborhood Emergency Teams (NET).
Davis County Sheriff Kenneth Hammon denounced formation of any neighborhood security forces, saying "no vigilante groups of any type are needed in Davis County to assist law enforcement officers . . .
NET groups, apparently forming statewide within the last few weeks, have been claiming association with Civil Defense and law enforcement agencies and the LDS Church, said Walter J. Michelsen, Salt Lake County Civil Defense director.
Alvin Britton, Salt Lake County Civil Defense information officer, said 90 percent of the NET programs are well intentioned, but the advocating of turning neighborhoods into armed fortresses with security forces is inadvisable . . .
Mr. Britton said NET leaders have claimed local government is no longer reliable for protection and for citizens to protect themselves by whatever means necessary.
"Though weapons are never advocated," Mr. Britton said, "The group ends up with that as an end product.". . .
Many organizers of NET, Mr. Michelsen said, are from out of state. They are using Mormon theology, he said, and the influence of being converts to the LDS Church to fulfill a prophecy to press their ideas.
Mr. Michelsen said he has been advised the leaders are determined to continue with their work at all cost.
Commissioner Smoot said NET organizers are very capable and "not to sell them short, for the end product is very dangerous" (Salt Lake Tribune, March 3, 1970).
The same day the Salt Lake Tribune published this information concerning Neighborhood Emergency Teams, the LDS Church leaders decided to issue a statement concerning this matter. Fortunately, the church leaders chose to dissociate themselves from this organization. The Deseret News reported:
The First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today stated that the Church has no connection with the Neighborhood Emergency Teams (NET), nor does it approve of its members being active in such vigilante groups (Deseret News, March 3, 1970).
Even though Mormon leaders stated that they did not approve of NET, there can be no doubt that this group originated among the Mormon people. A woman from Davis County, Utah, made this statement in a letter to us: "Our Davis County is filled with NET or JBS — We don't like it! Hope you realize the NET groups here are Mormons."
On March 10, 1970, a question arose regarding armed guards at LDS buildings:
Bishop Brown commented briefly in answer to questions regarding the Church's position on vigilante groups and reports of armed guards on Church property . . .
He said the Church does have and always has had armed guards to protect Church properties, some of which are invaluable and irreplaceable. He affirmed that two guards are stationed at the Church Office Building . . . (Deseret News, March 10, 1970).
Public Safety Commissioner James L. Barker felt that there was not sufficient protection. On March 9, 1970, the Deseret News published an article about the matter:
Handicapped over lack of funds for more police protection, Salt Lake City is embarking immediately upon a four-pronged community police support program.
Announced today by Public Safety Commissioner James L. Barker, Jr., the program could provide from 200 to 400 trained volunteers to patrol city streets and neighborhoods besides the regular police patrolmen . . .
"We are reviving the three-year-old police auxiliary plan and will quadruple our present police reserve corps," Barker said. Also, public safety will [p. 72] provide another volunteer civilian corps of trainees for security of city property and other public installations when needed . . .
"The reserves are highly trained, public spirited civilians and we plan to have about 200 in their ranks by the middle of spring," Barker said. He disclosed plans for a second 35-man training class of reserves to be sought immediately . . . He said he wanted the public to understand clearly that the city's volunteer groups would be given the same training as police and would be under close supervision of the police department.
Fortunately, the Salt Lake City police never had to deal with a major racial clash.
The Mormon Choir
In November of 1969 a minister in Denver, Colorado, called for a boycott of Mormon goods, including records of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:
The Rev. Roy Flourney . . . called for reform of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) in what he alleged is a practice of racism against blacks. . . .
The Church of the Black Cross, . . . is calling for:
—Boycott of Mormon goods, such as record albums of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
—Discouraging tourist travel to Utah, home state of the church (Denver Post, Nov. 15, 1969).
Interestingly, on January 25, 1970, the New York Times reported: "Recently the Mormon Tabernacle Choir took in two Negro women as second sopranos, and reportedly, is about to welcome a Negro tenor." Then on February 21, 1970, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that, "Black faces are among the sea of white ones in the 375-voice Mormon Tabernacle Choir." The two new black members of the choir were identified as Wynetta Martin and Marilyn Yuille.
It should be noted that Mrs. Martin waited two or three years to get into the choir, whereas Miss Yuille was singing in the choir only two days after her audition. This whole matter seemed especially strange when one considers the fact that Miss Yuille was put in the choir less than three weeks after the Denver Post (November 15, 1969) announced that the Church of the Black Cross was calling for a boycott of "record albums of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir."
During the early 1970s black Mormons were trying a back-door approach to get better support and recognition. Writing in 1981, Armand Mauss explained:
Of special significance was the creation of the Genesis Group late in 1971, an enterprise still very much alive a decade later. This group was organized as a supplement, not a substitute, for the regular church activities of Mormon blacks in their respective Salt Lake area wards. . . . With a potential membership of perhaps 200, its participation levels have ranged between about twenty-five and fifty, consisting disproportionately of women, of middle-aged and older people, and of high school-educated skilled and semi-skilled workers. About half are partners in racially mixed marriages, and the most active members are (with a few important exceptions) blacks converted to Mormonism in adult life, rather than life-long members from the old black families of Utah.
The Genesis Group was organized mainly on the initiative of the small band of faithful black Mormons who became its leaders. Three of them approached the Quorum of Twelve with a proposal for an independent black branch, to be led by a few blacks ordained to the priesthood on a trial basis—a proposal, in effect, for a racially segregated branch. . . . While the presiding brethren were not yet willing to go as far as an independent branch, they were very willing to sponsor the kind of group that eventually resulted from these negotiations, irregular though the Genesis Group surely was.
A special committee of three apostles was appointed to organize the new group and oversee it, though eventually it was placed directly under [local] stake jurisdiction. . . . While leaders of the group were not ordained to the priesthood, they had the distinct impression—whether on adequate grounds or not—that their organization was a step in the direction of eventual priesthood ordination, and they believed, furthermore, that such an expectation was shared by leading members of the Twelve ("The Fading of the Pharaohs' Curse: The Decline and Fall of the Priesthood Ban Against Blacks in the Mormon Church," by Armand L. Mauss, Dialogue, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 23-24. For more information on the Genesis Group, see [p. 73] "Separate but Equal? Black Branches, Genesis Groups, or Integrated Wards?," Dialogue, Spring 1990.).
The LDS Church has been affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America since 1913, when it became the official LDS boys youth group (Deseret News 1989-1990 Church Almanac, p. 321). The Salt Lake Tribune reported:
Around the world, and in Utah, Scout troops are sponsored by virtually all religions from Buddhism to Nazarene. But the LDS Church has a historically close relationship with the organization. Not only is Scouting an integral part of the church's young men's program, LDS adult leaders don't volunteer — they are "called" to their positions.
The LDS Church is the largest sponsor of Boy Scouts, followed closely by the Catholic and Methodist churches, . . . (Salt Lake Tribune, Utah section, Feb. 6, 2004).
In 1974, the Mormon doctrine of discrimination against blacks brought the Boy Scouts into a serious confrontation with the NAACp. Nationally, the Boy Scouts did not discriminate because of religion or race, but Mormon-sponsored troops did have a policy of discrimination. On July 18, 1974, the Salt Lake Tribune reported:
A 12-year-old Boy Scout has been denied a senior patrol leadership in his troop because he is black, Don L. Cope, black ombudsman for the state, said Wednesday . . .
The ombudsman said Mormon "troop policy is that in order for a scout to become a patrol leader, he must be a deacon's quorum president in the LDS Church. Since the boy cannot hold the priesthood, he cannot become a patrol leader."
The Mormon leaders apparently realized that they could never prevail in this matter and a compromise was worked out:
Shortly before Boy Scout officials were to appear in Federal Court Friday morning on charges of discrimination, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a policy change which will allow black youths to be senior patrol leaders, a position formerly reserved for white LDS youths in troops sponsored by the church . . .
An LDS Church spokesman said Friday under the "guidelines set forth in the statement, a young man other than president of the deacons quorum could (now) become the senior patrol leader if he is better qualified" (Salt Lake Tribune, July 18, 1974).
Armand Mauss commented:
A scheduled tour of the Tabernacle Choir to New England in 1974 had to be cancelled because of protests from black clergymen in the region. In the same year, the Church inadvertently ran afoul of the Boy Scouts of America through a new [LDS] organizational arrangement that had the effect of integrating its scout troops more closely with the Aaronic Priesthood groups. The Church and the BSA had earlier agreed on this change, but neither had anticipated the barring of black youths from positions of scout leadership in Mormon troops. (Actually, all non-Mormons in those troops were also barred.) The Church was soon confronted by an NAACP suit over the matter, and corrective action was very fast in coming (Dialogue, Autumn 1981, vol. 14, no. 3, p. 20).
Protest by Douglas Wallace
In 1976 the LDS Church found itself repeatedly embarrassed by one of its own members who became alienated over the priesthood ban and decided to take matters into his own hands. On April 3, 1976, the Salt Lake Tribune reported:
PORTLAND, Ore. — A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ordained a black into the priesthood Friday, saying he did so in an attempt to force a revision in Mormon doctrine about the Negro race.
Douglas A. Wallace . . . first baptized Larry Lester in the swimming pool of a motel in northeast Portland. He then ordained Lester to the office of priest in the Aaronic Priesthood of the LDS Church . . .
The rites were preceded by a news conference at which Wallace said he has been bothered by the Mormon Church's bias against blacks, and he feels the time has come to challenge it. He said often all [p. 74] that is required to change a policy is for someone to break out of tradition . . .
Wallace said he hopes there are no recriminations against him for his action, such as excommunication.
On April 13, 1976 the Salt Lake Tribune revealed that, "Wallace was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Sunday for ordaining a black man into the church's priesthood."
After a confrontation with church personnel at an April conference session, Mr. Wallace was ejected from the Tabernacle. Later he was served with "a court order barring him from attending conference" (Salt Lake Tribune, October 4, 1976).
Although we did not agree with some of Mr. Wallace's ideas on religion, we did not consider him to be dangerous and we were rather surprised to notice the close surveillance the police kept him under when he walked along the public sidewalk outside of Temple Square.
Officer Olson Shot
The Mormon leaders' fear of Mr. Wallace led to a tragic incident in which a policeman was accidentally shot and permanently paralyzed. This occurred about the time of the church's conference held in April, 1977. On April 5, 1977, the Salt Lake Tribune reported:
Mormon dissident Douglas A. Wallace charged Monday that a Salt Lake City police officer, shot early Sunday was keeping surveillance on him in a nearby residence.
Acting Police Chief Edgar A. Bryan Jr. denied it.
He said his men were not keeping surveillance on Mr. Wallace, an excommunicated member of the Church . . . but he would not say what the stakeout's purpose was.
Officer David W. Olson remained in critical condition Monday . . . where personnel said he suffered a severed spinal cord from a single shot in the neck. The policeman was shot accidentally by his partner . . . Wallace was staying at the home of a friend, Dr. John W. Fitzgerald . . .
He was in Salt Lake City to try to make an appearance at the LDS World Conference last weekend. Attorneys for the church, however, obtained a temporary restraining order . . . which prevented the dissident from visiting Temple Square.
"I have not committed any crime, and I don't intend to commit any crime. I have been raised in the Mormon faith and I am a man of peace . . . This is not Russia; this is not Nazi Germany; there is no reason why I should be under surveillance of the police" Mr. Wallace said.
On April 6, 1977, the Salt Lake Tribune related:
Ex-Mormon Douglas Wallace . . . Tuesday afternoon said he will subpoena various high ranking police and sheriff's deputies to establish the fact . . .
Mr. Wallace said also, "It is clear from the evidence that we have uncovered that I was under surveillance. The police department's denial of that simply compounds the wrong. Is this going to be Salt Lake's sequel to the Watergate scandal?"
With Mr. Wallace and his attorney pressing them hard, the police were finally forced to admit the truth about the matter:
Salt Lake City police officers admitted Thursday that the accidental wounding of an undercover officer occurred during surveillance of Mormon dissident Douglas A. Wallace . . .
"Reports released Thursday by both the county sheriff's office and the county attorney show that six officers were on stakeout around the John W. Fitzgerald home . . . where Mr. Wallace was staying.
Those who know Mr. Wallace find it strange that there were so many policemen on the surveillance crew watching him at 4:20 a.m. A subsequent story in the newspaper reported that the "lawmen . . . had been on duty for 16 straight hours, Chief Willoughby said" (Salt Lake Tribune, April 15, 1977).
At any rate, Wallace claimed the LDS Church was behind the whole affair:
Ex-Mormon Douglas Wallace Friday renewed his assertion that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was behind April police surveillance of Mr. Wallace that led to the accidental shooting of a Salt Lake City police officer (Salt Lake Tribune, September 17, 1977).
Finally, David Olson, the disabled police officer, took exception to a press release issued by the church. In a letter to the editor of the Salt Lake Tribune, January 18, 1978, Mr. Olson made a sarcastic attack on the president of the LDS Church:
[p. 75] I would also like to thank Spencer W. Kimball for his press release concerning the police involvement combined with the LDS church's efforts to restrict Douglas A. Wallace from the temple grounds, specifically the Tabernacle, on April 3, 1977.
His denial of these actions is wrong. Any man who can take such actions and still call himself a prophet deserves more than I to be confined to this wheelchair.
Officer Olson apparently could not face the thought of being paralyzed for the rest of his life, and on March 25, 1980, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that he "committed suicide early Sunday morning, according to Murray Police."
Douglas Wallace, who was himself a lawyer, filed lawsuits amounting to millions of dollars against the LDS Church, and although he was not able to prevail in the courts, the publicity surrounding the suits caused the church considerable embarrassment.
Byron Marchant was another Mormon who put a great deal of pressure on the LDS Church. Mr. Marchant took a very strong stand against racism in the church. The Dallas Morning News for October 20, 1977, reported:
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The man who cast the first vote in Mormon history against a leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been excommunicated and fired as chapel janitor. Byron Marchant, 35, of Salt Lake, is the second opponent of the church policy withholding the priesthood from blacks to be excommunicated in the last two years.
When Mr. Marchant tried to distribute literature at Temple Square at the April 1978 LDS Conference he was arrested:
Byron Marchant, excommunicated member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was arrested . . . at Temple Square on charges of trespassing . . . Marchant was requested to leave the church grounds after he offered literature to people waiting in line . . . Mr. Gibbs said police officers were contacted and Mr. Marchant was placed under arrest at approximately 1:45 p.m. (Salt Lake Tribune, April 3, 1978)
Mr. Marchant published a sheet in which he called for a demonstration against the church's policy:
Next October Conference (1978) I will join all interested in a march on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. In the event the Mormon Church decides to ordain worthy Afro-Americans to the priesthood this demonstration will be a sort of celebration. A demonstration of support. In the meantime, every person and/or group concerned about Utah Racism is encouraged to speak out and attend the October protest.
Mr. Marchant's threat of a demonstration at the next conference must have caused some concern among General Authorities of the LDS Church. The leaders of the church were obviously worried that a demonstration could turn violent. In addition, it would undoubtedly attract the news media and provide further embarrassment to the church. The issue regarding blacks and the LDS Church was so explosive that the slightest incident could have touched off a riot in which people might be injured or even killed.
An article in the Salt Lake Tribune observed:
The last three years have also seen repeated attempts by church dissidents to subpoena Mormon leaders into court proceedings, with the central issue often related to the church's belief about blacks (Salt Lake Tribune, June 10, 1978).