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LDS Church issues new statement on blacks and the priesthood

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is issuing a new statement about blacks and the priesthood. Some consider it the first time the church is openly discussing in detail the church's controversial history.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is issuing a new statement about blacks and the priesthood. Some consider it the first time the church is openly discussing in detail the church's controversial history.

If you see what's now on the website for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints you might have the following reaction:

"It's about time!" said Jerri A. Harwell, LDS Church member.

"It's something that's strong, needed to be said and I'm just glad it's been said," said Don Harwell, LDS Church member.

Mormon couple, Don and Jerri Harwell, is talking about the new statement about the church's history with blacks and the priesthood. It's believed for the first time the church is giving an open step by step account of why it denied African American men the ability to hold the priesthood and why the church waited until 1978 to remove the ban.

"It does away with a great deal of the myths, the misconceptions that are out there, the things I've been rolling my eyes at for decades now. It does away with that," said Jerri Harwell.

In the church statement, it said – "During the first two decades of the church's existence, a few black men were ordained to the priesthood."

It clarifies the ban against blacks actually began with Brigham Young.

"In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African decent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood."

One Mormon history professor said the LDS church began imitating attitudes in America.

"A lot of Mormons just simply did not feel comfortable like other American Caucasian people of the time, feel comfortable with inclusivity of those of African ancestry," said Dr. David Bokoroy, Univ. of Utah Professor of Bible and Mormon Studies.

But Harwell tells ABC 4 Utah’s Brian Carlson he doesn't believe Brigham Young was one of them.

"I don't, because some of his statements, one of his statements that struck with me the longest and still sticks with me is that “we're going to pay for the mistreatment of the African,” so would a racist say that?" said Don Harwell.

The statement goes on to say how subsequent church leaders struggled with ban, and how they rejoiced when it was finally lifted.

“There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room. For me, it felt as if a conduit opened between the heavenly throne and the kneeling, pleading prophet of God who was joined by his Brethren. . . . Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing. . . . Not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that. Nor has the Church been quite the same.”

Both the Harwells hope the statement shows a new church attitude.

"In light of the new knowledge that we have today can the Latter-day Saints let go of those myths, the misconceptions they've held for generations?" said Jerri Harwell.

To read the statement in full click here, Race the Priesthood.

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