Posted on

Dr. Newell Bringhurst on Saints, Slaves, and Blacks

We are continuing our focus on Black History Month here at Gospel Tangents.  I’d like to introduce Dr. Newell Bringhurst.  He has been publishing on a variety of Mormon history topics since the 1970s.  We’ll get to know him a little better, and talk about his first book, Saints, Slaves & Blacks.

Newell:  Well I started my academic career at the University of Utah.  I did both a bachelors and masters in History at the University of Utah in the mid-‘60s.  Then I went to California and did graduate work for a Ph.D. at the University of California-Davis.  I completed my doctoral dissertation which became the basis for my first book, Saints, Slaves, and Blacks.  I completed the dissertation in 1975, and then I revised it and updated because it was published three years before the black revelation of 1978.[1]  That, of course, required some major revision, particularly in the later chapters, and so I spent the next five years revising and updating the dissertation, and it was published in 1981 under the title of Saints, Slaves, and Blacks:  The Changing Place of Black People within Mormonism.

GT:  Yeah, it’s a great book.  I think I even paid $20 for it.  We were talking yesterday and I think you said it was $30 brand new, and I bought it 20 or 30 years later and it was still $20 so it has held its value well!

Newell chuckles:  Well I’ve seen editions of it for as much as $75-$100 for ones that are in mint condition.  I think Curt Bench had one he had gotten from a private collection.  It had been autographed by me, it was an autographed copy and it looked like it was in mint condition and he was asking $75 for it!

GT:  Yeah, yeah, it’s a great book.  I understand you’re working on a 2nd edition with Greg Kofford Books.

Newell:  Yes it is going to be published as an updated, expanded version.  I’m going to virtually leave the text as I wrote it originally because #1, I feel like it has stood up pretty well with the test of time as far as my basic thesis and the way that my over-arching interpretation, but I’m going to add an introduction for the 2nd edition which will kind of be a historiographical discussion of where I fit into the scholarship as it evolved from those who preceded me in writing on the black issue and those who have written on the same issue since 1981.  Because there has been a whole body of literature and historical inquiry has moved in that direction beyond what I did in Saints, Slaves, and Blacks.

I understand this second edition will be published in the next month or two!  We will talk about some of his other books that have been influential in Mormon studies.  Check out our conversation…..

Dr. Newell Bringhurst has been writing on Mormon History for almost 50 years!

Don’t forget our other interviews on Black Mormon History:

[1] See


Posted on

LDS Church in Africa #BlackHistoryMonth

It’s Black History Month at Gospel Tangents.  This is our final conversation with Russell Stevenson and we’ll talk the LDS Church in Africa.  Did you know that Nigerians in the 1960s and even in the 1950s I learned have asked for LDS missionaries to come teach the gospel to them.  It’s pretty surprising that they did this without any LDS presence in Nigeria.  Russell Stevenson will talk more about this in our next conversation.

Russell:  Throughout the 1950s, a number of church leaders are getting letters from various Nigerians across the river in Igboland, elsewhere begging for missionaries, asking for some kind of missionary presence.  The initial response by David O. McKay and others was some level of skepticism.  Maybe they are just looking for an opportunity to make money.  They are just looking for white people to give them business, maybe looking for a new source of patronage now that the British influence was beginning to recede.  By 1960 it was officially turned over to Nigerians.

In 1960 David O. McKay and the First Presidency, they send Glen Fisher, who has once been a mission president in South Africa to see what’s happening on the ground.  Are these potential converts legitimate?  Do they in fact want to join the LDS Church, or are they just looking for some kind of business opportunity?  Glen Fisher returned with a report that was gushing by saying these people are the real deal.  They crave Mormonism.  They crave the LDS Church.

So they go there and they come away with the same conclusion that Glen Fisher had come away with, that these people are the real deal.  They are legitimate.  They in fact crave Mormonism.  In fact Lamar Williams went further.  He said, “Ultimately we cannot keep the priesthood from these people.”  Essentially it’s only a matter of time.

GT:  What year is this?

Russell:  This is in 1961.

GT chuckles:  ’61.  That’s pretty prophetic!

Russell:  Yes.  I should note too, this isn’t the very first time you have Nigerians communicating this kind of thing to missionaries.  We have evidence all the way back to 1950 of a Nigerian reverend approaching missionaries in New York City asking for a missionary presence.  This is all throughout the post-war period.  I’m only talking about the period in which the activity is most sustained.

Find out more about what happened with the LDS Church in Africa!  I hope enjoyed our previous conversations with Russell on Elijah Ables, his mission, the temple/priesthood ban, and his attempts to get his endowment.  Check out all of these episodes for #BlackHistoryMonth!…..


Posted on

Elijah Ables’ Attempt for Temple Blessings #BlackHistoryMonth

We’re continuing our discussion of Black History Month with Russell Stevenson.  He’s the biographer of Elijah Ables, and we’ll talk about the end of Elijah’s life.  Did Elijah Ables affiliate with any other groups like James Strang, William Smith, or Sidney Rigdon?

Russell:  Going with that, we can maybe conclude that Elijah was certainly diplomatic and kind and charitable.  If you really want to go further out on a limb, more than the evidence that we have suggests, you can say that he affiliated with William Smith, the movement.  I’m not inclined to say that we have evidence to suggest that.

We’ll also talk about how Elijah worked on the Salt Lake Temple, but was never allowed to get his endowment.  Did he continue to try through the end of his life?

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

Check out our conversation…..

(Don’t forget to check out our previous conversations about Elijah Abel’s early life, his mission to Canada, and his troubles in Cincinnati.)  You also might want to check out what Paul Reeve said on this topic!

Photo from dedication of the Salt Lake Temple dedication in 1892