As we conclude our conversation with Dr Paul Reeve, he tells how the 1978 revelation affected Black Women as well. We’ll briefly review Jane Manning James attempt to get temple blessings, as well as find other women seeking sealing blessings. We’ll also talk about how Joseph F Smith closed opportunities for blacks, and both David O McKay & Spencer Kimball’s reopening opportunities. Check out our conversation…
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How Deep Into the Ban?
GT 00:40 Well, I can’t wait for your book to come out. Show people how thick this book is. It’s a tiny book, especially compared to your [other book.] How many pages is that?
Paul 00:53 Well, with all the notes and everything and the index, it’s 161 pages. But, in terms of just the writing, the last page in the last chapter is page 133.
GT 01:08 Okay.
Paul 01:08 So it’s short. And the chapters are short, too. This was also something that I struggled to adjust to. They wanted sort of short, pithy chapters, keep the reader moving. But I actually grew to enjoy it right after I got into it. And so, some chapters are three pages, four pages long. They address the issue, and then we move on.
GT 01:34 You could probably read that in about an hour I’ll bet, or two hours, maybe.
Paul 01:39 A couple of hours. I mean, people have sat down and just read it. I mean, I’m getting texts from people. “Hey, I just bought this and read it in a couple of hours.” So, Deseret Book does have the audio version available. And I think it’s says it’s like a four-hour thing, if you listen to it on full speed. You can ramp it up to double speed and be done in a couple of hours.
GT 02:05 Are you the narrator, or did they get somebody else?
Paul 02:07 I’m not, no, they got someone else.
GT 02:11 So, how much history can you put into just a 130 page book? Because I have a feeling your Religion of a Different Color is much more in depth, much more detailed than this. Is that true?
Paul 02:28 It absolutely is. Yeah, of course. So, you get much more in depth. I go into outside public perception of who Latter-day Saints were, in Religion of a Different Color. And this is, there is one short chapter on that in this book, but it’s largely the inside story. Religion of a Different Color tries to demonstrate the way that outsiders perceived Latter-day Saints, racially, in the 19th century, as not white enough. And you don’t get the full extent of that in this. This is largely the inside story of moving away from their own black Latter-day Saint converts, towards whiteness, and the way that the racial restrictions take on a life of their own across the course of the 19th century. So yeah, I have to be really selective in the examples that I choose. And Deseret Book basically said [I need to shorten the book.] Yeah, I mean, the manuscript that I turned in, they said, “You’ve got to cut 10,000 words,” to fit their format.
GT 03:36 How many words is that, do you know?
Paul 03:38 I can’t remember what it finally came in at, but I had to cut 10,000, from what I originally submitted. And, I said, “You’re already asking me to submit something that’s so short. And then you’re asking me to cut 10,000?”
Paul 03:53 Really, what they said was, “Cut out the multiple examples in each chapter. So, pick an example that illustrates the bigger point.” I struggled with that, at first, but I actually like how it turned out, because it gives you an example to sink your teeth into. It illustrates the bigger point of the chapter. Some chapters do include more than one black Latter-day Saint story. But that’s the other thing that I tried to do in this book is draw upon Century of Black Mormons. So, the racial story, even in Religion of a Different Color, is largely told from the perspective of the white leaders who are making these racial decisions. Most of the way that the story has been told has just been, when did the racial restrictions come into place? How do they develop over time? And that’s true in Religion of a Different Color. But what I try to do here is to demonstrate how those policies actually impacted black Latter-day Saints in the pews.
GT 04:59 Which is a story not told nearly enough.
Paul 05:01 Exactly. And Century of Black Mormons made that possible. So, I could draw upon biographies from the database and demonstrate, here’s how this policy that’s being implemented actually impacted black Latter-day Saints. And so, I try to include those experiences, so that you actually get a sense of these policies had real world consequences.
Rapid Fire Questions About Book
GT 05:35 I feel like I’m smarter than the average bear when it comes to this issue, especially. It’s one of my favorite issues. It may not be my listeners issue, but I love this issue. So, let me just ask you about some people that I’m familiar with, and see if those stories are in the book. It’s already sold out. I haven’t been able to get a copy. It’s selling like hotcakes, apparently. So, do you talk about Black Pete?
Paul 06:05 I mentioned him as the first black Latter-day Saint. Yeah.
GT 06:08 Elijah Able?
Paul 06:09 Yes.
GT 06:10 Warner McCary?
Paul 06:12 Yes.
GT 06:12 Oh, you do? Yeah. Because he’s the problem. Between him and the Enoch Lewis’ mixed race child, I believe that was really what caused Brigham Young to reconsider.
Paul 06:25 I think you’re right. I think you’re right. And so, I deal with both of those experiences here as pivotal in turning Brigham Young’s perspective. So, he’s dealing with two cases of interracial marriages. And on December 3, 1847, so the end of 1847, after he’s come to the Salt Lake Valley, and then going back to Winter Quarters, he’s speaking out stridently against race mixing. And it seems to account for his change of direction on race and racial priesthood ordination.
GT 07:06 Because prior to that, we’ve got “a fine elder,” Q. Walker Lewis in Lowell, Massachusetts.
Paul 07:11 Exactly.
GT 07:12 He was very favorable. And then those two, wasn’t there a third one? I swear there was a third issue. Oh, I think it was Joseph Ball. Didn’t he kind of get involved in polygamy with William Smith?
Paul 07:27 Yes, he did.
GT 07:27 But if he passed for white, I guess that wouldn’t have been a race issue per se.
Paul 07:30 It doesn’t seem to be a factor in what’s going on in 1847. Yeah.
GT 07:36 You probably don’t get into Joseph Ball.
Paul 07:38 No, no.
Orson Pratt Rejects Curse of Cain
GT 07:40 You did talk about the 1852 Legislature, apparently, because that was the big issue in writing the book. Right?
Paul 07:47 Correct.
GT 07:47 So how much detail can you get into that in just such a small book?
Paul 07:52 Not a lot of detail. But I do quote Brigham Young. I do quote Orson Pratt. They’re in a debate over the laws that will govern white enslavers, who have brought their black enslaved people to Utah territory. And that produces some of Brigham Young’s most strident sentiments about racial priesthood ordination, but also slavery in the 19th century. Orson Pratt is advocating for black male voting rights. And that helps us to account for some of the things that Brigham Young says in that 5th of February speech, because he says “We just as well give mules the right to vote here as negros and Indians.” And he’s pushing back against Orson Pratt who is advocating for black men being able to vote.
GT 08:44 And I will just remind people of our previous interview. I have one titled Becoming a Fanboy of Orson Pratt. I still think it’s cool that Orson Pratt was advocating for black voting rights in 1852!
Paul 08:58 It is cool, and he sticks to his convictions. And we have another new speech that will be in the next book, but, also, I just briefly quoted in this book. Orson Pratt in 1856 gives another strident anti-slavery speech wherein he says [that] we have no proof that Africans are descendants of “Old Cane.”
GT 08:58 Oh, really?
Paul 08:59 And that’s the only justification Brigham Young ever gives for the racial restriction is Curse of Cain. Orson Pratt doesn’t buy it. He says there is no proof. Hopefully we all know in 2023, Orson Pratt is correct. Black people are not descendants of Cain, but that was a long-standing justification for where black skin came from, calling black people as cursed and Brigham Young is bringing that into the faith with him and giving it theological weight, in this case.
GT 09:55 See that flies in the face of biblical literalism. Right?
Paul 09:58 That’s right.
GT 10:00 I know quite a few biblical literalists in my ward.
Paul 10:04 Yeah.
GT 10:04 So, I think there are a lot of people that still would believe that Africans come from Cain.
Paul 10:08 Right. Yeah. If you read the book of Genesis, I mean, it doesn’t actually say that. It was a biblical exegesis or a biblical way of interpreting. Some early scribes suggested that the mark that God put on Cain was black skin, but the Bible doesn’t say that. [Early scribes say] the curse is somehow racial. The Bible doesn’t say that. It was just standard interpretations, and then you throw in the Curse of Ham or Canaan, and that was justification for enslavement. And they said, “Well, the Bible supports slavery.”
GT 10:52 The Israelites were slaves for a long time.
Paul 10:55 Right. So, they’re using those standard justifications, in Brigham Young’s case, to then suggest that there is a racial priesthood curse.
Death of Elijah Able
GT 11:10 Wow. I’m trying to remember. The next big issue to me, is there anything between 1852 and–well, you probably have the death of Elijah Able. That was probably a big deal, right? Do you talk about that in there?
Paul 11:27 Yeah, I do. Yeah. So just tracing how the racial restrictions develop over time and Elijah Able’s application in 1879, to be sealed to his wife and to receive his endowment. So, just the indication that, as late as 1879, that racial restrictions are not firmly or unambiguously in place, because John Taylor doesn’t know what to do with a black priesthood holder who received his Washing and Anointing rituals in Kirtland. He wasn’t in Nauvoo when the endowment was introduced. He now is in Utah. His wife has passed away. He wants to be sealed to her and have his endowment and receive the rest of his temple rituals.
GT 12:08 You told me earlier. Who was it in 1871 that received the priesthood?
Paul 12:12 His son, Moroni.
GT 12:14 Moroni, but Moroni was on his deathbed.
Paul 12:15 Correct. But for Elijah Able…
GT 12:19 You gave it to my son.
Paul 12:20 Who knows what he even understands about the racial restrictions?
GT 12:23 Right.
Paul 12:24 Because his son has received ordination. He’s ordained. He maintains this whole time that Joseph Smith sanctioned his priesthood. And so, his application in 1879, produces an investigation. And Joseph F. Smith is sent to interview him and comes back and reports that he’s got his certificate dates. He knows who gave him his Washing and Anointing rituals in Kirtland. He’s got all the information. He claims that Joseph Smith promised him that his priesthood would give him the blessings of the gospel. And he reports all of this, and John Taylor allows his priesthood to stand but doesn’t allow him temple admission and basically says, “Well, maybe it’s like some of the things done in the early days of the church.”
GT 13:18 And we didn’t know what was going on.
Paul 13:20 We didn’t know what was going on. And then we sort of developed more refined understanding. And so, in his estimation, Brigham Young was correct. And Joseph Smith was the one that made the mistake in ordaining black men to the priesthood. And Brigham Young is correct in terms of restricting them from the priesthood.
GT 13:36 That’s what John Taylor said.
Paul 13:37 Well, that’s really what he’s saying. Right? I mean, he’s saying [that] in the early days of the Church, maybe we did things wrong, and then we had greater understanding. So, the greater understanding is Brigham Young.
GT 13:49 The restriction.
Paul 13:50 Instead of suggesting that Brigham Young got it wrong, and Joseph Smith got it right.
GT 13:54 Well, John Taylor said some pretty terrible things about blacks, right?
Paul 13:57 He did.
GT 13:58 How much do you cover that in there?
Paul 13:59 Yeah, it’s not in here. It’s in Religion of a Different Color. But John Taylor says they’re their descendants of Satan. And so, he has his own understanding, as well. But he prevents Elijah Able from receiving his temple admission. But in 1883, Elijah Able goes on a third mission for the church and Joseph F. Smith, sets him apart, sends him to Ohio. He’s 75 years old. He returns the following year and dies within two weeks as a faithful black priesthood holder.
Jane James’ Attempt at Temple Blessings
GT 14:39 You probably talk about Jane James’ attempt to get her temple blessings.
Paul 14:43 I do. Yeah.
GT 14:45 Can you share that really briefly?
Paul 14:46 Yeah, I mean, she’s just appealing for her temple admission.
GT 14:52 That was due to Elijah’s death, right?
Paul 14:54 Yeah, in 1884 she picks up where Elijah Able leaves off, basically. And she doesn’t really until she passes away in 1908. She is repeatedly told no. She has given limited use recommends for the Salt Lake Temple, for the Logan Temple to perform baptisms for the dead. She had also participated in baptisms for the dead in the endowment house in 1875, along with several other black Latter-day Saints, but denied the crowning temple rituals of her faith.
GT 15:23 So, she could get in the basement of the temple, but that was it, basically.
Paul 15:26 That’s it. Yeah.
GT 15:27 That’s terrible to say.
Paul 15:28 Well, and Jane and her brother, Isaac, he joins her in Salt Lake and is rebaptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1893. And they then are seen as prominent pioneer couples, and they’re given cushion seats in the tabernacle, so prominent seats in the tabernacle, but barred from the temple.
GT 15:51 Wow. It’s crazy.
Joseph F Smith Solidifies Restrictions
GT 15:53 I’m trying to think, is there anything else big? I guess Jane Manning’s death in 1908. To me the next big step in the priesthood battle is President McKay. Is there anything in between Jane and President McKay?
Paul 16:08 Yeah, I mean, I make the case that Joseph F. Smith is really the one responsible for solidifying the restrictions in place. Because in 1908, he basically argues that Elijah Able’s priesthood was declared null and void by Joseph Smith, himself.
GT 16:26 Which wasn’t true.
Paul 16:27 No, it’s not true, no. But he makes that claim. And so that becomes the new memory in the 20th century. The restrictions were always in place. God put them in place. They were there from the beginning. Man can’t do anything about it.
GT 16:41 It all goes back to Joseph.
Paul 16:42 It goes back to Joseph. It even traces through the foggy mists of time into the eternities, right? And that becomes a memory for the 20th century. And the leadership believes that, and it becomes entrenched. And so that helps us to account for why it takes so long to unravel.
How 1978 Revelation Affected Black Women
GT 17:01 Okay. So the next big thing is probably when President McKay becomes Church president, and there’s an issue in South Africa. Is that in the book?
Paul 17:13 I don’t deal with his trip to South Africa. But I do talk about the lack of consensus in the McKay period, where you have people like Hugh B. Brown advocating for change, and people like Harold B. Lee entrenching around the restrictions. So, this is more of the 1960s? Yeah. So, once again, it’s broad brushstrokes.
GT 17:40 Because you can’t get fine detail in 130 pages.
Paul 17:43 You can’t. So, I try to give life to the story, but also not the fine detail. And Matt Harris, I think, will fill us in on all of the detail in his book that’s coming out. It really articulates the McKay administration as a lack of consensus with some people advocating for change and other people retrenching behind the racial restrictions. I talk about Bruce R. McConkie and Mormon Doctrine, Mark E. Petersen’s talk in the wake of Brown versus Board of Education, at BYU. [I talked about] some in the leadership entrenching around segregation. And so, it helps us to understand how it gets perpetuated forward. And then, Spencer W. Kimball seems intent on building consensus and laying the groundwork for the 1978 revelation. And, once again, it’s another brief chapter, and I actually…
GT 18:56 Do you talk about the Brazil temple?
Paul 18:57 I do. Yeah.
GT 18:58 Do you agree with Matt, that that was the first thing that President Kimball did to get rid of the ban?
Paul 19:05 I mean, I think Matt’s the expert on that. I think it’s a significant factor in unraveling, absolutely. Yeah. And I’ll leave it to Matt, to give us the full details on that. Once again, it’s short here, but actually I quote Marion G. Romney, who says, “Look, the temple in Brazil was a significant factor here. Trying to figure out racial identity in a mixed racial country is next to impossible. And we’re building a temple there.” And he articulates that and so I quote him briefly.
GT 19:46 He’s not one we usually associate with racial progress.
Paul 19:51 Yeah, no, and it’s not–really I mean, he’s just basically saying it’s a significant factor in why the revelation came about. And so, I’m just quoting that. But the 1978 Revelation chapter is really framed by a black woman, Freda Lucretia McGee Bealieu. I wanted readers to understand that it’s not just priesthood, but black women were barred from temple admission. And she was baptized in 1909, in a creek, outside of Tylertown, Mississippi. And in July of 1978, she’s traveled 1000 miles to the Washington, DC Temple, to be sealed to her husband, who has predeceased her. And she’s waited 69 years to get into a Latter-day Saint temple. And so, I wanted readers to appreciate how this impacted real life people. And I think she’s a profound example, someone who had remained faithful for 69 years before she was allowed into LDS temple.
GT 20:59 Wow. That’s too long. I wish it had never happened. I still wish.
Addressing Lingering Justifications of Ban
GT 21:05 You know, I look at places like the Community of Christ. I mean, it’s not that they’ve got a stellar racial record, either. But they never had a ban, at least. The Strangites never had a ban. The Bickertonites, I think they had an apostle in the early 1900’s that was black. And so, it didn’t have to be this way. I hate it when I hear people say that well it was up to God and 1978 was just a magical year. I mean, how do you respond to people when they say those kinds of things?
Paul 21:36 So, the last part of the book, I mean, Deseret Book asked me to address some of the lingering justifications. And so, I do deal with that, and just try to unravel some of those justifications. I start out the book by simply quoting–Joseph Smith claims five revelations that stipulate that this gospel is to be preached unto every creature. That leaves no one out. The divine timeline is every creature and he’s receiving those revelations as early as 1831. And they keep getting repeated. This gospel is to be preached unto every creature. That leaves no one out. There’s no, “This is just God’s timing.” God’s timing was [that] this is the last dispensation, and everyone is included. The revelations that Joseph Smith claims indicate that. Joseph Smith says that Jesus says to him twice, in 1831, “All flesh is mine, and I am no respecter of persons.” So, you have to take those revelations seriously. The case that I make in the book is 1978 returns the Church to its universal roots.
GT 23:04 It’s a restoration.
Paul 23:05 It’s a restoration. Yeah, it is back to the original universalism. So, the structure of the book is just structured in three phases: open priesthood and temple, segregated priesthood and temples, and then a return in 1978 to the original universalism. And that’s the exact structure. And so, if readers take nothing else away, I hope that they appreciate the evidence that the racial restrictions were not in place from the beginning. And the evidence is included, and the structure of the book is structured that way to illustrate that.
GT 23:43 Very cool. All right. Anything else you want to share on this? Buy multiple copies and give them to your friends.
Paul 23:55 Of course, I’d be happy about that. No, I don’t think so. I mean, I hope readers appreciate it, and appreciate the fact that that Deseret Book was willing to publish it. And I think it’s open and honest. It’s an open and honest retelling. Obviously, it’s short. So, it’s not going to include everything.
GT 24:20 Your other book is for that. There were two books, right?
Paul 24:23 Right. And Matt’s too.
GT 24:23 The one before and Matt’s, too.
Paul 24:24 Yeah, and Matt’s book. I mean, it’s aimed at being accessible to the average Latter-day Saint.
GT 24:34 Let me ask you this. If a Church member said that the ban was racist, how would you react to that?
Paul 24:47 If the ban was….?
GT 24:48 If they said, “I think that the priesthood ban was racist.”
Paul 24:56 Well, I’m not sure what you’re saying.
GT 25:01 Well, there’s an issue. I’ve talked with different people. Honestly, I believe that the ban was racist. I’ve had other people that say, “No, it wasn’t racist. For whatever reason, God only knows. It’s not racist. This is God’s plan.”
Paul 25:21 I see.
GT 25:21 How would you respond to both of those issues?
Paul 25:25 Yeah, yes. Well, I mean, I would ask them to engage with the evidence. And I hope this volume lays out the evidence. So, for example, I use Freda Lucretia Magee Beaulieu in that 1978 revelation chapter. She can answer the temple recommend questions exactly the same as a white person before June of 1978. The white person will be admitted to the temple and Freda denied. It’s not based on worthiness, because she’s answering the questions the same. It’s based on race. That’s racism. So, I’m not sure that people have fully come to terms with that. And I hope that by illustrating how these policies impacted the lives of real people, that it might prompt people to think more deeply about that. So, if you’re making determinations based on a person’s race, that’s racism. If you’re not making determinations based on their answer to temple recommend questions. So, you can answer the temple recommend questions, exactly the same, but you’re barred because of your race, then that’s racism.
GT 26:45 Okay. We’re not judging people by the content of their character, but by the color of their skin.
Paul 26:51 Right. Or by their devotion to God. And President Russell M. Nelson has actually articulated that. He has said in recent speech, “Let me be clear. We are not judged based on our skin color. We are judged based on our devotion to God and His commandments.” The racial restrictions worked exactly the opposite. President Nelson taught eternal truths. The racial restrictions violated those truths.
GT 27:22 Very good. And then the last question, I wanted to ask you, you had mentioned at that Writ & Vision meeting that they wanted you to use the word “I.” “I believe.” “I, I, I.” I know that was hard for you. It seems like Deseret Book also were like, “These are the opinions of Paul Reeve. These are not official Church [positions].” Does that make it easy for, shall we say, more conservative members to write off the book and say, “Who cares what Paul Reeve thinks? I’m not racist. I think the ban came from God.” How do you respond to that?
Paul 28:09 Yeah, well, everyone’s going to have to make up their minds for themselves. But I hope it’s based on evidence, and I think this book actually offers them the evidence. So, you’re going to have to argue against the evidence. And yeah, so Deseret Book asked me to make it clear that I’m speaking for myself.
GT 28:28 Not for the Church. Not for Deseret Book.
Paul 28:30 And I would never pretend to speak for the Church. So, that’s including “I” statements, right? These are things that I believe to be true. But I also believe that they’re grounded in evidence.
GT 28:44 Okay, you wouldn’t have a problem–I don’t know if that’s the right way to say it. But for people who just say, “Well, that’s Paul’s belief. I don’t have to believe that.” I mean, how would you respond?
Paul 28:56 Well, like I said.
GT 28:59 Grounded on evidence.
Paul 29:02 Certainly people don’t have to believe anything that I say. That’s up to them. But I hope they’re willing to engage with the evidence. And this is documented. You know, new evidence has come to light even since Religion of a Different Color.
GT 29:18 I know! We’ve talked about it today. It’s been amazing.
Paul 29:21 So, I’m hoping that they’re willing to engage with that, and they make their determination based on the evidence.
GT 29:29 And so, final question, tell us about your upcoming book, and when do you think it’ll be out? Do you have a name for it yet?
Paul 29:34 Yeah. It’s called This Abominable Slavery. And it will just lay out the 1842 legislative session. Christopher Rich and LaJean Carruth are my co-authors for that. We tell the story of the Black Servant Code as well as the Native American Indenture bill that were passed by the 1852 Territorial Legislature. And [we] lay out that narrative story to lay out indigenous as well as African American slavery in Utah territory in the 19th century.
GT 30:13 And I will tell everybody, I’ve been waiting for at least six years.
Paul 30:17 It’s been a long time. And we will also make all of those speeches that were newly transcribed, we’ll make them publicly available.
GT 30:24 And will become even a bigger fanboy of Orson Pratt.
Paul 30:27 Yeah, I’m hoping that [comes out] within the next year.
GT 30:32 Okay. Yeah. Cool. Cool. Well, we will definitely love to have you back on here, Paul.
Paul 30:36 Sounds great.
GT 30:38 All right. Thanks, again, for being here on Gospel Tangents. I appreciate it.
Paul 30:40 Yeah, it’s my pleasure. Thank you.
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