Dissimilar Circumstances

The Issue of Race and Mormonism

Written by John Carson

Mormons believe we have the potential to become gods, and our path to this divine opportunity began before we were born here on earth. Christianity on the other hand, teaches we sprang into existence when we were conceived in our mothers' wombs; and there was, is and always will be only one Eternal God.

I want to draw your attention to the Mormon understanding of our path, which leads directly to Mormonism's reason for our "dissimilar circumstances"; their answer to why we are born in our situations. Some are born into Mormon families where the "Restored Gospel" is faithfully taught; others are not born into such circumstances. The Mormon belief in the pursuit of becoming gods, is connected to how they view the reason why people are born in particular situations.

A key Bible passage I would like to use against the path Mormonism teaches we're on, is John 9:2, where Jesus' disciples asked Him about a blind man's circumstance,

"Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?"

They were basically making a judgemental statement. "Someone must have sinned for this man to be born blind. Was it him, or his parents?" Their focus was on fault. Jesus Christ's focus was on something entirely different... to glorify the Father.

'To Become Like God' (2016, Deseret Books) is a book written by BYU professor Andrew C. Skinner. I will use his writings as a backdrop to launch into a further understanding about the historic Mormonism's view that "dissimilar circumstances" was directly connected to their concept about a pursuit (that began in a pre-existent state) of exaltation toward godhood.

Prof. Skinner is a well recognized author of many Mormon books and articles. He recently wrote 'To Become Like God' in order to reason that there are multiple "witnesses of our divine potential". He says that the reason Jesus Christ came to earth was "to give all that he was and all that he had—so that we could become what he and his Father are: exalted beings." (To Become Like God, page 6)

He explains:

"To become like God, first of all, then, is to possess a tangible body of flesh and bone. We are already on this path by virtue of our mortal birth on this earth and will continue at the time we are resurrected, if we are faithful in mortality." (To Become Like God, page 11)

He points to the importance of the Mormon understanding of a Pre-mortal existence. As seen above, to become a god, the individual must first "possess a tangible body of flesh and bone." This means Mormons believe we all existed without tangible bodies before we were born to our earthly parents.

The sources he used in his book as "witnesses of our divine potential" are considered:

".... recognized Latter-day Saint authorities, especially apostles and prophets, as foundational sources". (To Become Like God, Preface, page x)

On page 31 of his book, Prof. Skinner quotes from The Seer, written by Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt. This is of particular interest because it deals directly with Mormonism's doctrine that sins were committed prior to our conception in our mothers' wombs:

"Elder Orson Pratt, writing about the nature of sin in our premortal existence, said: "Among the two-thirds [of God's spirit children] who remained, it is highly probable that there were many who were not valiant . . . but whose sins were of such a nature that they could be forgiven through faith in the future sufferings of the Only Begotten of the Father, and through their sincere repentance and reformation. We see no impropriety in Jesus offering himself as an acceptable offering and sacrifice before the Father to atone for the sins of His brethren, committed, not only in the second, but also in the first estate." (Pratt, Pre-Existence of Man, The Seer 1, no. 4 (April 1853): 54)" (To Become Like God, page 31)

Prof. Skinner used the above Mormon quote to demonstrate the LDS Church's teaching that the....

"Atonement of Jesus operated in our premortal estate, before anyone entered mortality, to redeem us and aid us in the premortal phase of our quest for perfection and eternal life." (To Become Like God, page 31)

In other words, our "quest for perfection" and exaltation toward godhood started before we were born on earth, and the purpose for Jesus' Atonement was to aid us in our pursuit of becoming gods.

Let's take a look at what is established so far about what Mormonism teaches:

  • All of us existed as spirit children prior to our mortal births (premortal existence).
  • The quest for perfection and exaltation toward godhood started in the premortal existence.
  • Many spirit children sinned and were not valiant in the premortal existence.
  • The Atonement of Jesus Christ was to aid the spirit children in their pursuit in becoming gods, through repentance and reformation.

Prof. Skinner had demonstrated these points Mormonism teaches about the Preexistence through quoting Orson Pratt. Are there repercussions for the many spirit children "who were not valiant" in the Preexistence? A person who commits a crime here can receive forgiveness, but will still be required to pay for the crime, or serve a sentence based on the justice system. What is decided about the outcome for sins committed in the Preexistence? This is not told in 'To Become Like God', because Prof. Skinner only quoted from page 54 of The Seer. However, Apostle Orson Pratt continues and gives the Mormon explanation about what happens to these spirit children, and how their choices in the Preexistence effect their mortality.

According to this foundational Mormon source, the spirit children who are to be born on earth do not gain mortality on entirely equal basis, due to their choice of valiance in the Preexistence. Those most valiant in a war fought in heaven, are born on earth in better circumstances than those who were not valiant. In The Seer, page 56, Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt continues:

"So far as innocence is concerned, they enter this world alike ; but so far as circumstances are concerned they are not alike. One class of spirits are permitted to come into the world in an age when the priesthood and kingdom of God are on the earth, and they hear and receive the gospel ; others enter the world in the age of darkness, and are educated in foolish and erroneous doctrines. Some are born among the people of God and are brought up the right way ; others are born among the heathen, and taught to worship idols. Some spirits take bodies in the lineage of the chosen seed, through whom the priesthood is transferred. others receive bodies among the African negroes or in the lineage of Canaan whose descendants were cursed, pertaining to the priesthood. Now if all the spirits were equally faithful in their first estate in keeping the laws thereof, why are they placed in such dissimilar circumstances in their second estate ?"

So in Mormonism, a spirit-child's faithfulness in the Preexistence determined what circumstances he/she would enter the world into, including whether the individual would be born "of the chosen seed", or of the lineage Mormonism says was "cursed" of God.

See also the Pearl of Great Price (Mormons view as scripture): "And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them." (Moses 7:22)

Now let's consider again, John 9:2

  • "Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?"

Let's reword this question a bit and use one of the "dissimilar circumstances" listed from The Seer above:

  • "Did this man sin in the Preexistence, that he was born black?"

If this question is extremely troubling, good! It ought to be! What is even more disturbing, is as you have read, the answer to such a question from early Mormon leaders such as Apostle Orson Pratt, is a resounding, "Yes!" He even added they were "placed in such dissimilar circumstances in their second estate" because they were "not valiant" in the first estate. (The Seer, page 54-56) In other words, there was a decision for these spirit children to be "placed" in a lineage Mormonism says God cursed, because they sinned in the Preexistence.

This type of thinking produces a superiority type attitude. For this doctrine of Mormonism demonstrates the belief that people are not born of equal worth. One's worthiness in the Preexistence resulted in which lineage he/she would be placed in. "He was born of 'the chosen seed', therefore he must have been a valiant spirit child." Or, "She was born African, therefore she must have been one of the many spirit children who were not valiant."

If you go to 'Race and the Priesthood' in the Mormon website, you read:

"In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood, though thereafter blacks continued to join the Church through baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Following the death of Brigham Young, subsequent Church presidents restricted blacks from receiving the temple endowment or being married in the temple. Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions."
(https://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng)

Brigham Young said,

"I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 95).

"You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind . . . Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 290).

Why do we not hear much about these teachings from the Mormon Church nowadays? Why did Prof. Skinner quote a foundational source only to a certain point, and no further? What was boldly taught in the earlier years of Mormonism by Presidents and Apostles of the Mormon Church are now being called folklore. In an interview with Mormon Apostle Jeffrey Holland, PBS asked him, "What is the folklore, quite specifically?"

"Well, some of the folklore that you must be referring to are suggestions that there were decisions made in the pre-mortal councils where someone had not been as decisive in their loyalty to a Gospel plan or the procedures on earth or what was to unfold in mortality, and that therefore that opportunity and mortality was compromised. I really don't know a lot of the details of those, because fortunately I've been able to live in the period where we're not expressing or teaching them, but I think that's the one I grew up hearing the most, was that it was something to do with the pre-mortal councils. ... But I think that's the part that must never be taught until anybody knows a lot more than I know. ... We just don't know, in the historical context of the time, why it was practiced. ... That's my principal [concern], is that we don't perpetuate explanations about things we don't know. ...

We don't pretend that something wasn't taught or practice wasn't pursued for whatever reason. But I think we can be unequivocal and we can be declarative in our current literature, in books that we reproduce, in teachings that go forward, whatever, that from this time forward, from 1978 forward, we can make sure that nothing of that is declared. That may be where we still need to make sure that we're absolutely dutiful, that we put [a] careful eye of scrutiny on anything from earlier writings and teachings, just [to] make sure that that's not perpetuated in the present. That's the least, I think, of our current responsibilities on that topic. ... "
(http://www.pbs.org/mormons/interviews/holland.html)

Burying this topic under the rug does not make it go away. The core teachings of Mormonism's Preexistence and the pre-mortal council's decision, based on the spirit childrens' "loyalty to a Gospel plan", directly effect the path individuals take in mortality. Current Mormon leaders see their "current responsibilities on that topic" is to keep quiet about it. Why? Because racism is wrong and they know it! But protecting the Mormon Church's appearance of integrity by hiding its racist past, is more important than honest transparency.

The Bible teaches such racial utterances and attitudes are unacceptable!

Don't judge after the flesh:

“For God shows no partiality.” (Romans 2:11 ESV)

Jesus said: "Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man." (John 8:15 KJV)

Accept all nationalities:

So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him." (Acts 10:34-35 ESV)

Do not limit anyone's capacity to serve God:

“And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:14 KJV)

“Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.” (Isaiah 56:7 KJV)

Do not commit name-calling against anyone:

“God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” (Acts 10:28 KJV)

Jesus said: "But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." (Matthew 5:22 KJV)

Mormon President Brigham Young and other leaders' utterances about the black race are wrong and unbiblical. Next time you hear or think about Mormonism's 'Plan of Salvation', remember that such a 'plan' leads directly to this path of Dissimilar Circumstances the Mormon Church taught humanity is on.

Does Mormonism teach what the Bible teaches about humanity? Go to:

Humanity