I’m rather ashamed to admit that I was once a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the Mormons. Rather than explain how that happened, I’ll tell you why I quit.
Soon after I became a Mormon, I began hearing rumors and accusations that the LDS Church was racist. It turns out, yes — they were.
The Mormons have no paid clergy (except at the very highest tier of Church leadership). Males are pretty much automatically ordained into the Aaronic Priesthood at age 12, and into the Melchizedek Priesthood at age 18. Virtually every LDS male holds the priesthood — but that wasn’t always the case.
According to Wikipedia: “From 1849 to 1978, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) prohibited men of black African descent from being ordained to the priesthood. In 1978, the church’s First Presidency declared in a statement known as ‘Official Declaration 2’ that the restriction had been lifted....
“During this time, the church taught that the restriction came from God and many leaders gave several race-based explanations for the ban, including a curse on Cain and his descendants, Ham’s marriage to Egyptus, a curse on the descendants of Canaan...Church leaders used LDS scriptures to justify their explanations, including the Book of Abraham, which teaches that the descendants of Canaan were black and Pharaoh could not have the priesthood because he was a descendant of Canaan. In 1978, it was declared that the restriction was lifted as a result of a revelation given to the church president and apostles....
“Critics of the LDS Church state that the church’s 1978 reversal of the racial restrictions was not divinely inspired as the church claimed, but simply a matter of political convenience, as the reversal of restrictions occurred as the church began to expand outside the United States into countries such as Brazil. These countries have ethnically mixed populations, and the reversal was announced just a few months before the church opened its new temple in São Paulo, Brazil.”
There were other pressures on the LDS Church to lift its restrictions on Blacks. Time reported (11/14/1969) “Campus Communique: Outcries of Dissent.”
“At the University of Wyoming, 14 blacks were dismissed from the football team after protesting an upcoming game with Brigham Young University. Reason: Brigham Young is affiliated with the Mormon Church, which bans Negroes from church offices. Now the Black Students Union at the University of Arizona has demanded that Brigham Young be expelled from the Western Athletic Conference. Similar discontent is spreading among other black athletes, who presented assorted demands and staged protests at Indiana University, the University of Washington and the University of Minnesota.”
Mormons believe that Native Americans are descended from ancient Israelites who traveled to the American continents in ancient times.
Book of Mormon Central (11/20/2018), “Who Are the Lamanites?” explains: “After The Book of Mormon was translated and published and the Church of Jesus Christ restored to the earth, the Lord directed through revelation that The Book of Mormon be taken ‘unto the Lamanites’...or, in other words, the Native Americans living in what was then the western frontier of the United States. The reason for this mission was, in part, because ‘the early Saints believed that all American Indians were the descendants of Book of Mormon peoples, and that they shared a covenant heritage connecting them to ancient Israel.’ ”
Few religions hold up under scientific scrutiny, but in this instance the Mormons are undeniably wrong. If The Book of Mormon is true, and Native American peoples are descended from ancient Israelites, that Semitic ancestry would be evident in their DNA. But plainly, it is not.
According to Wikipedia: “The genetic history of Indigenous peoples of the Americas (also named Amerindians or Amerinds in physical anthropology) is divided into two sharply distinct episodes: the initial peopling of the Americas during about 20,000 to 14,000 years ago (20-14 kya), and European contact, after about 500 years ago. The former is the determinant factor for the number of genetic lineages, zygosity mutations and founding haplotypes present in today’s Indigenous Amerindian populations.
“Most Amerindian groups are derived from two ancestral lineages, which formed in Siberia prior to the Last Glacial Maximum, between about 36,000 and 25,000 years ago, East Eurasian and Ancient North Eurasian. They later dispersed throughout the Americas after about 16,000 years ago (exceptions being the Na Dene and Eskimo-Aleut speaking groups, which are partially derived from Siberian populations which entered the Americas at a later time).”
In short, Native Americans are descended from Siberian peoples who migrated from Siberia to Alaska. Native Americans don’t have a drop of Semitic blood or Hebrew ancestry. It made a nice fiction in the 1800s, but science proves the Mormons are dead wrong about the origin of Native Americans.
When I was a Mormon, I confided to a church leader that I was a Democrat. He frowned and said severely that I should become a Republican — that all good Mormons were Republicans.
Indeed, according to the Pew Research Center (2/23/2016), “U.S. religious groups and their political leanings,” by Michael Lipka: “Seven-in-ten U.S. Mormons identify with the Republican Party or say they lean toward the GOP, compared with 19% who identify as or lean Democratic — a difference of 51 percentage points. That’s the biggest gap in favor of the GOP out of 30 religious groups we analyzed, which include Protestant denominations, other religious groups and three categories of people who are religiously unaffiliated.”
There are, however, notable exceptions. Harry Mason Reid Jr. served as a U.S. senator from Nevada from 1987 to 2017. Reid and his wife converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while he was in college. Reid said in 2001, “I think it is much easier to be a good member of the Church and a Democrat than a good member of the Church and a Republican.”
(Unfortunately, I didn’t know anything about Harry Reid when I was told that all good Mormons were Republicans.)
A Harper’s Magazine article, “Pennies from Heaven: How Mormon economics shape the G.O.P.,” by Chris Lehmann claimed that Mormon beliefs are like the prosperity gospel “on steroids.”
An oft quoted passage from The Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 4:4) states: “For the Lord God hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.”
Mormons equate wealth and prosperity with saintliness. At the local level, or ward (equivalent to a parish), a bishop and two counselors comprise the bishopric, and they are typically well-off, if not downright wealthy. The greater one’s wealth, the greater one’s status in the Mormon Church.
I don’t believe in prosperity theology, or the so-called prosperity gospel. I don’t believe that God rewards the faithful with wealth and prosperity. Wealth is not an indicator of virtue. Just look at Jeffrey Epstein, or Pablo Escobar — or Vladimir Putin, worth an estimated $75 billion.
Mark Heinz lives at Nolin Lake. Visit his website at amazon.com/author/markheinzbooks.