GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney’s membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon faith, has resulted in the church receiving increased interest from the media, as well as increased criticism from other Christian denominations who often denounce the Mormon teachings as “a cult.”
According to a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life, the majority of Mormons surveyed said they are the victims of widespread misperceptions, discrimination and a lack of acceptance in American society.
The Pew report found that nearly half of Mormons surveyed believe they face discrimination in the U.S., compared to nearly 70 percent who say African Americans are not discriminated against.
The Mormon faith dates back to the 1820s, when its founder, Joseph Smith Jr., taught that black people were “the descendants of Cain,” whose skin color was a just punishment from God.
The original Book of Mormon states:
“And the Lord had caused the cursing to come upon them … that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.” 2 Nephi 5:21
“And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion …” Alma 3: 6
In 1852, Brigham Young formally declared that though blacks were welcome to practice Mormonism, they were not allowed access to the priesthood because of their African origins. This policy was enforced by the church until June 6, 1978, when then-church president, Spencer W. Kimball, received what he said was a new revelation from God “which came to him after extended meditation and prayer in the sacred rooms of the holy temple,” to end the practice of discrimination against persons of African heritage.
The Mormon church does not record race in its membership documentation, so the actual number of black Mormons is not known, however, it is believed to be in the hundreds of thousands worldwide. –kathleen cross