Between 1840 and 1850, the LDS Church changed from a faith where persons of African descent were proselytized and encouraged to join and where men of African descent were ordained to the priesthood to one where persons of African descent could still join the Church but men of African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood and no persons of African descent could participate in temple ordinances.
Many reasons have been proffered for this change. Some have opined that one of the lessons the LDS Church learned from its experience in Missouri was that it was dangerous to be perceived as treating persons of African descent as equals. Still others have opined that as more people from the southern United States joined the Church, they brought the more restrictive and more conservative views of race relations into the Church with them. Others have relied on the multitude of statements and writings by Church leaders to conclude that the LDS Church accepted as doctrine the notion that people of African descent were laboring under the “Curse of Cain” and therefore were not eligible for priesthood or Temple ordinances.
FEMWOC posits that perhaps the reason is quite simple and also quite salacious. Throughout American history, white men have been the ones exercising the power in every sphere, be it government, politics, education, religion, or business. As part of that history white men have often justified their actions on the grounds that they were protecting white women. According to many white men, no force on earth was more threatening to white women than men of African descent. Leaders of the LDS Church shared in this view. A review of LDS Church history, particularly the events at Winter Quarters in Nebraska involving William McCary, lends credence to this position.
If you want to hear more about how the myth/fear of men of African descent being intent upon sullying the virtue of white womanhood seeped into and tainted the practices and teachings of the Church, come to the FEMWOC Panel in the Crimson View room on Friday, July 31, 2015 at 3:45 p.m.