"I Would Confine Them to Their Own Species" : LDS Historical Rhetoric & Praxis Regarding Marriage Between Whites and Blacks
Sunstone Symposium West
In this paper I first examine a significant LDS marriage that occurred in Massachusetts in 1846 and I place it in its historical context. Next I briefly examine inter-racial marriage in Nauvoo, beginning with Joseph Smith and then carry that topic on to Winter Quarters of 1846 and 1847, where the seeds of LDS anti-miscegenation fully germinated under Brigham Young. Next I recall Brigham Young’s emerging theology regarding black-white marriage and its significance to American society and LDS eschatology. Then I look at the chaotic consequences of “letter of the law” dogma conflicting with the lives of real people, who openly came to LDS leaders to ask difficult personal questions or demanded clarification and concise definitions rather than broad generalizations. Despite seemingly rigid doctrines and policies, in reality, the responses from church leadership were widely varied and often contradictory, with many more people of some African descent receiving priesthood and temple ordinances than has been acknowledged in the past.