With the last-lasting priesthood and temple ban that ended in 1978, Mormons have a poor record with regards to race relations. I talked about reasons why Brigham Young changed from support of ordination of blacks to opposition my last episode, but Apostle Orson Pratt is a bright spot in Mormon history given his vocal support for black civil and voting rights. Slavery was legalized in Utah in 1852 because of support by Mormon prophet Brigham Young. However, his apostle/legislator Orson Pratt not only went on record to oppose slavery, but was a proponent of black voting rights! Dr. Paul Reeve of the University of Utah describes his findings of recently discovered speeches of the 1852 Utah Territorial Legislative session. My mind was blown to learn that a decade prior to the Civil War, Pratt was a proponent of voting rights for African Americans, and said “angels will blush” if Utah passed the slavery bill. Please listen in! You can get a transcript here, or at Amazon.
Mormons are familiar with stories of persecutions in Missouri back in the 1830s. Why were Mormons so persecuted? It turns out that the people of Missouri were concerned that Mormons were trying to start a Slave Rebellion. On the other hand, Joseph Smith was known to be against the abolitionist movement. Could both positions be true? We asked these questions to Dr. Paul Reeve of the University of Utah and he gives his answers which may surprise you. Here are a few excerpts from my interview with Paul.
In today’s world, Mormonism is seen as a predominantly white church, but in Joseph Smith’s day, it was perceived as just the opposite. Mormons were considered so different back then that many scientists and doctors thought a new race was coming from the Great Basin Kingdom. How did outsiders get such strange ideas? Dr. Paul Reeve, professor of history at the University of Utah will help us answer that question.