Moist No More?

I have a dilemma. Perhaps you can help me.

This blog is getting more traffic than ever before, and all my newfound power is going to my head. As of now, I am a very big, important, influential person – the Soul of the Age, if you will – and soon, my mighty words will shape your every thought, mold your every whim, fashion your every – well, whatever. You get the idea. Point is that I’m a big deal. People know me.

This also comes on the heels of my massive success as a professional musician. My track “I Am a Cow” from the financial-failure-but-critical-triumph Stallion Cornell debut CD Stalker Tunes has now been sold not once, but twice. I have netted over $1.50 for my efforts. It just keeps getting better, because, in the words of John Lennon, “it can’t get no worse.”

So, keeping in mind the majesty of myself, how would you respond to the following email, which I received early on Monday afternoon:

Dear Brother Cornell:

A friend sent me your excellent blog article on Mitt Romney as “Stake President of the United States”. It really expresses the “inside view” we see as members of the Church but is so hard to convey to others!

I am a “convert” of 34 years and still enthusiastic about the gospel! I find it difficult to express the “inside view” to my friends who do have biases against the church. Sometimes, I just share “gospel principles” without naming them as such, just so, when the appropriate moment arises, I will have prepared them to open their hearts/minds more fully.

Would you please tell me the context meaning of your blog’s title “Stallion Cornell’s Moist Blog”?

I may be missing a more current meaning, but the nuance of “moist” has a somewhat racy innuendo. (Unless you are referring to downing a “root beer”, physically spitting out opinions, or the sweat on a  wild stallion. I am talking about the worldly “connotation” in the title, not the views you express. (I love what you write!)

I know if I share the blog article that some of my friends will click on your link. Unfortunately, some of my friends are very “worldly

Thank you so much.


Donna’s concerns are not new. More than once, I’ve gotten into trouble with people who don’t realize that a Mormon guy could record spiritual thoughts on a site titled “Stallion Cornell’s Moist Blog.” I once interviewed for a job down at BYU and they asked me for a writing sample. I gave them a link to one of my more brilliant articles, and the guy called back and said, “The link you sent me is wrong. It pulls up a page on something called ‘Stallion Cornell’s Moist Blog.'” I explained that that was me, and, I’m sure for completely unrelated reasons, I didn’t get the job.

The name “Stallion Cornell” raises issues, since, to many, it sounds like a porn star name a la George Costanza calling himself “Buck Naked.” (You can see it at :25.)

Still, I don’t think I could part with the Stallion Cornell pseudonym. In my very first blog post, I recounted the name’s origins, although, looking back on my explanation, I left a few things out, such as the Senior Yearbook Quote incident.

Back in 1986, as a senior at Calabasas High School, I had to come up with a fancy quote for the yearbook to sum up my entire public educational experience. My first choice was “A fart on Thomas Putnam!” from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, but despite the phrase’s impeccable literary pedigree, it didn’t make it past Mrs. Farnsworth’s keen gift for censorship. So I came up with this bit of wisdom:

“If man had to eat everything he killed, there would be no war.”

I attributed it to Stallion Cornell. I thought that line was pretty funny at the time. In retrospect, however, it’s more vegan than funny. Much better was Foodleking’s quote:

“If it moves, bet on it. If it doesn’t move, eat it.”

This was attributed to “The Honorable Lee Shagin,” the greatest high school civics teacher who has ever lived and a man who rose to national prominence by means of his crusade against low-flow toilets.

No, Stallion has too illustrious a history to abandon now. The Salt Lake Tribune called it a “rakish pseudonym” when it was attached to a rewrite of the Tuacahn Center for the Arts’ (hopefully) final version of the musical Utah! And were I to abandon Stallion Cornell, who would be left to battle Languatron? “Languatron vs. Stallion Cornell” is the stuff from which epics are made. It wouldn’t have nearly the same panache if it were just some guy in Utah vs. another guy in Chicago who still lives with his mother. 

Alas, I don’t have that same kind of affection for the word “moist.”

My interest in that word goes back quite a ways, when a friend of mine told me that is was the one word she hated above all others. Turns out she’s not alone – with women, the word “moist” is the most hated word in the English language.

That made me laugh. What’s the big deal? Cookies are moist. Cakes are moist. So are other unmentionable things, I suppose, but that wasn’t my point. It was just a funny word that I threw into the mix. Allow me to quote myself in order to explain further.

I never intended to have a bulletin board of my own, but in sifting through the dashboard of, I discovered that my ISP had built-in software that made creating such a board effortless. So, on a whim, I created my own [Battlestar] Galactica-themed board, and I had to give it a name. “Stallion Cornell’s Board” sounded too utilitarian, so, for no apparent reason, I added the word “Moist” to the title, because I think it’s a funny word… I never intended the word “moist” to define the whole Stallion Cornell experience, and I even changed the title of the board a few times just to mix it up. But it was too late. It was, and is, the Moist Board forevermore.
 – Stallion Cornell, “Reign of the Moist Boys,” June 2, 2010

That board still exists, yet it hasn’t reaped the benefits of this blog’s newfound prominence, and I feel no pressure to change its name. But I added the word “moist” to this blog as an afterthought, with no consideration for the idea that it might drive people away.

Which is why I now open up the question to you. Does the word “moist” keep you from embracing all things Stallion? Should I drop it altogether? Would there be a substitute word that might serve as a better alternative? What should I call this thing? Do you like my socks? Until I get a suitable answer, I’ve removed the word “moist” from the board’s masthead, and I’ve titled this blog “Stallion Cornell’s Blog Previously Known as Moist.” Has kind of a Princely ring to it, I think.

You’ll also notice I didn’t even mention the Yul Brynner head until now.

The Sham of Being Shocked

Remember Michael Kinsley?

I barely do, and, truthfully, I thought he was dead.

But no, the former liberal half of CNN’s Crossfire is still around, although he’s not sitting across from Pat Buchanan yelling at people anymore. And just last week, he wrote a very thoughtful piece about Rush Limbaugh that, I think, ought to be the definitive word on the already-tiresome subject of “Slutgate.” Turns out it won’t be, because Gloria Allred is now trying to get Rush arrested. If I have to choose between Michael Kinsley and Gloria Allred, I’m always going with Kinsley.

Kinsley’s point, which is an outstanding point, is that most of the people claiming to be offended by Rush Limbaugh’s remarks aren’t really offended. Instead, they’re just glomming on to anything they can use to embarrass or silence people they don’t like. The result of the empty taking-offense ritual is not more civilized discourse, but, instead, more timidity, more blandness, and, in the long term, more people taking offense. He says it better than I can:

These umbrage episodes that have become the principal narrative line of our politics are orgies of insincerity. Pols declare that they are distraught, offended, outraged by some stray remark by a political opponent, or judicial nominee, or radio talk-show host. They demand apology, firing, crucifixion.

The target resists for a few days, then steps downs or apologizes. Occasionally they survive, as Limbaugh probably will, but wounded and more careful from now on…

The pursuers all pretend to be horrified and “saddened” by this unexpected turn of events. In fact, they’re delighted.

Of course they’re delighted! The enemy has shot himself in the foot! The least they can do is open fire themselves and see if they can maximize the damage.

It’s here, of course, where I’m obligated to state that I’m not defending Rush’s statement. (Neither is Kinsley, who is no fan of Rush by any means.)  That obligatory denunciation is all part of the ritual, I suppose, and I’m grateful for the fact that other people find this as tedious as I do. The easiest way to illustrate this is to point to the fact that we’re eager and willing to faint at the shocking – SHOCKING! – nature of our political opponents remarks, but we too often have no qualms about overlooking this kind of garbage when it comes from someone we agree with.

Consider – ick – the loathsome Bill Maher, who goes out of his way to give offense in the same misogynistic oeuvre that got Rush into trouble. The things he has called women – words beginning with C or Tw, among others – make “slut” pale by comparison. He’s also one of President Obama’s most generous campaign donors, having just written a check for a million bucks to a pro-Obama SuperPAC, which laughingly refused to return the money when Maher’s vicious slurs were brought to their attention.

Keep in mind, too, that I’m as guilty of this as anyone.

I’ve worked on a number of political campaigns, and some of the most gleeful behind-the-scenes moments come when the other guy does something stupid. We then go out and face the press with long faces and concerned expressions, but when the cameras go off, it’s very hard to keep from giggling. This kind of nonsense is all over the place in the Republican primary. You don’t think the Santorum people weren’t giddy with excitement when Mitt stepped in it with the “I don’t care about poor people/my wife drives two Cadillacs” hooey?

I don’t know what the answer is. All I know is that when I hear anyone get into high dudgeon over some kind of terrible thing their political opponent does, I tend to view it as cheap theater rather than genuine outrage. Or maybe calling it “cheap theater” is to give it more credence than it deserves. As Woody Allen once said, “life doesn’t imitate art; it imitates bad television.”

Of course, it’s shocking – SHOCKING – that I would quote someone as vile as Woody Allen! And thus the ritual begins anew. You can finish it up on your own if you want to – I’m going to go walk my fat dog.

Renouncing Religious Bigotry

And so it begins.

Yesterday, a group of black pastors led by Rev. O’Neal Dozier issued a press release calling on Mitt Romney to “renounce his racist religion.” They’ll be holding a news conference on Monday morning to try and purge Mitt of his Mormonism in order to “foster and maintain good race relations here in America.”


Their press release, unfortunately, is riddled with massive factual and contextual errors that make them look more than a little ridiculous. Indeed, they begin with the bald assertion that “the Mormon religion is prejudiced against Blacks, Jews and the Native American Indians.” Well, no, it isn’t. To quote the Church’s most recent statement on the subject, “[t]he Church’s position is clear—we believe all people are God’s children and are equal in His eyes and in the Church. We do not tolerate racism in any form.”

That’s the official word from the Church they’re maligning. When slandering an entire faith, it might be a good idea to see what your target is saying before you put words in their mouth.

Still, even if they had spent the three minutes necessary to review the Church’s current position, it’s unlikely they’d be persuaded. That’s because they base their erroneous conclusion on statements of Brigham Young, “The Mormon Prophet,” in the “(Mormon) Journal of Discourses” and on a tortured misreading of the Book of Mormon.

I’ve said quite a bit about Brigham Young on this subject, and I think he was a great man called to a great work. I also think that, on the subject of race, that he was dead wrong and pretty much full of beans. The Church’s most recent statement says that “[w]e condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.” Far as I can tell, that includes Brigham Young.

People who want to cite Brigham as the infallible authority on race are ascribing a doctrine of infallibility to LDS leaders that we do not profess, although I do think people within the Church are as guilty of making that mistake as anyone else. Many of the warped explanations for racism within the Church come from later leaders who looked at Brigham’s mistaken, typical-19th-Century racist statements and tried to make sense out of them instead of having the courage to say “when it comes to race, the guy was just full of beans.”

We are repeatedly told in the Church that our leaders are not perfect, yet we respect them; we honor them, and we want to think the best of them. So in their well-intentioned eagerness to be supportive, some church members – a distinct minority, yes, but still too many – listen to people in high leadership positions and unquestioningly believe that every word that falls from their lips is the word of God. Both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young counseled against this notion repeatedly, with Joseph claiming “a prophet is a prophet only when he is acting as such,” and Brigham himself going even further:

I am… afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him… I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken the influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.

Good advice. It’s also advice that would lead an honest truth seeker to recognize that Brigham, when expounding based on his own limited racial understanding, wasn’t speaking for the Lord.

So how do we know, without a doubt, that a prophet is acting as such and speaking directly for God?

My personal answer is that his revelation is presented to the Church as revelation, sustained as revelation, and canonized as such and included in the Scriptures. The last time that happened was in 1978, when the lingering effects of Brigham’s racial mistakes were wiped away. (Incidentally, one such revelation to Brigham Young exists in LDS scriptures – D&C 136, which makes absolutely no mention of race.) That does not mean that, on other occasions, Brigham was uninspired or unworthy of our attention, and, indeed, he has a whole host of valuable sermons on other subjects in which his critics have no interest. It simply means that the 21st Century LDS Church has categorically rejected Brigham’s ruminations on race, whether it concern blacks or Jews or Klingons, and to cite them in order to claim that they represent the Church’s current position is either mistaken or dishonest.

The same thing, however, cannot be said of the Book of Mormon.

We continue to rely on that book as “the keystone of our religion,” and the clergymen calling on Mitt to walk away from his racist faith use the Book of Mormon as their star witness. They would have a much more compelling case, however, if they weren’t completely ignoring what the Book of Mormon actually says.

Consider their first Book of Mormon-related salvo near the top of the release:

“The Book of Mormon in 2nd Nephi, Chapters 5:21-23 accuses God of cursing African people and causing them to have black skin in order for them not to be attractive to white people.”

No, it doesn’t. There isn’t a single person of African descent mentioned in the Book of Mormon, nor has any verse in the Book of Mormon ever been used by anyone in the Church to justify exclusionary policies concerning African people.

2 Nephi 5 does talk about a “skin of blackness” that separates two factions of a group of displaced Israelites, not Africans. The people with that “skin of blackness” are referred to as Lamanites, and, at various times, they’re the most righteous people in the Book of Mormon. The most prominent prophet before the coming of Christ is Samuel the Lamanite, a man with dark skin who risks his life to rebuke the less righteous, lighter-skinned Nephites, who are repeatedly counseled to eschew racism.  “Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against [the Lamanites] because of the darkness of their skins.” (Book of Mormon, Jacob 3:9)

The Book of Mormon becomes even more racially complex when one considers that racial distinctions vanish entirely after the coming of Christ, and intermarriage between the two groups becomes commonplace. For over 200 years among these people, “[t]here were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.” (Book of Mormon, 4 Nephi 1:17)

Later, a group of people break away and call themselves Lamanites, but this becomes a cultural distinction, not a racial one. By the end of the book, all the Nephites are wiped out and only the Lamanites remain, and we are never told what color their skin was. The Church has always considered Lamanites to be ancestors of current Native Americans, members of the House of Israel, and heirs to a glorious destiny. The Church has never denied them any privilege or position, and the verses cited by Dozier have no bearing on how people of African descent have been treated.

Yet further in the press release, Dozier and Co. say this:

Also, according to Mormon Doctrine, Native American Indians were also of the class of the cursed because their skin was also a darker color.

How goofy is this? It’s as if the references in the Book of Mormon, which apply exclusively to Native Americans, were simply referring to them as some kind of afterthought to the cursed Africans, when, in fact, there’s no reference to Africans at all.

It then goes on to excoriate the practice of baptism for the dead which, apparently, is somehow racist, too, for reasons I don’t fully understand. I’ve yacked enough on that subject that I don’t feel the need to address it again here.

There are other minor details in the press release that are sloppy and irresponsible, such as when they say the Church claims “the Book of Mormon is ‘the most correct book, even more correct than the Bible.'” They put the last half of the sentence in quotes as if someone actually said those exact words, when they didn’t. They capitalize random words inappropriately, like the “the” in The Mormon Prophet. They thus refer to Mormon Doctrine, which is confusing, since there is a non-canonical book by Bruce R. McConkie titled Mormon Doctrine, and it’s unclear whether they’re trying to cite the book as a reference or if they’re just talking about Mormon doctrine in general and trying to make their mistaken interpretation of our doctrines look spookier.

None of that matters, I suppose. The bottom line is that they are deliberately distorting what Mormons believe in order to sow division and gain political advantage. I don’t like it when Republicans try that with President Obama, and I don’t think intellectually honest people of any political stripe should be willing to stand idly by and watch the same garbage being dumped on Mitt Romney.

The bigots here are the ones who are calling on Mitt Romney to renounce his faith in order to maintain “good race relations” with people who choose to willfully remain ignorant.

Bruce, Beer, Money & Mitt

Today, my “Stake President of the United States” post is featured on the front page of I love that site, and I even quoted them here long, long ago. I feel as if I have arrived! Certainly an exponentially large number of new readers have arrived, so maybe I ought to keep updating this thing if I want them to stick around. (Prior to this, my most popular post was a scathing expose of the secret organization known as the Order of the Arrow. I wonder if all Mitt supporters are as passionate on that subject as I am.)

You newbies may not know this, but longtime readers of this blog will remember that I’m a Bruce-o-phile, so when Jimmy Fallon had Bruce Springsteen on his show the other night and Bruce performed his long-forgotten gem “The E Street Shuffle,” I was in heaven. Not so, however, when he launched into “Death to My Hometown,” an Occupy Wall Street-y musical screed.

The song doesn’t mention Mitt or anyone else by name, but as Springsteen wails about the “robber barons” and “greedy thieves” whose blatantly capitalistic, 1% wickedness apparently murdered Asbury Park, New Jersey, you can bet that his enemies list would likely include everyone who has ever appeared on the Bain Capital employee roster.

I thought of this as, on the eve of Super Tuesday, I lamented that if Mitt were a Presbyterian, he’d have sewn up the nomination weeks ago. Some of my more liberal friends disagreed and cited the standard trope that Mitt’s real problem is his richness, his moneyed aloofness, his 1% out-of-touchness. Now, I like to think that my post about Mitt’s church responsibilities indicates that his ecclesiastical assignments put him squarely in touch with real people and didn’t give him the requisite time or license to sit around at the country club and sip chardonnay, but that perception is there, and it’s a hard one to shake.

In previous elections, that issue has been framed by the following question: which candidate would you most want to have a beer with?

In 2000, W. blew away Al Gore on alcoholic compatibility. In 2004, 57% of respondents picked Bush again as their beer buddy over the patrician, to-the-manor-born John Kerry. In 2008, at the beginning of the primary season, the question was asked about all candidates in both parties. The Washington Post reported the results as follows:

[S]o far, Barack Obama is winning the beer vote overall with 13 percent vote, followed closely by Rudy Giuliani at 12 percent. John McCain and Ron Paul are tied at 10 percent, followed by John Edwards and Fred Thompson at 8 percent.

Seven percent of respondents chose Mike Huckabee — a teetotaler, mind you — as the presidential candidate they’d most like to have a beer with. Six percent picked Hillary Rodham Clinton, and 5 percent each chose Dennis Kucinich (another candidate who doesn’t drink) and Mitt Romney, a Mormon who, of course, doesn’t drink either.

So Romney ties Kucinich. Ouch. Now I don’t drink for the same Mormon reason Mitt doesn’t, but I’d probably be looking to down something strong enough to kill a few brain cells after having to spend more than fifteen minutes with Dennis Kucinich. No, if I had to go out for a night of boozing with someone, I’d probably pick someone like – well, like Bruce Springsteen, for instance.

I mean, look at Bruce! He’s out there every night beating up on the 1%, sticking it to the man! He’s got a soul patch and everything! He’s definitely one of us. I can think of no one I’d rather slam back a few tall, cold ones with as we both slowly descend into a drunken stupor and then wake up in a dumpster twelve hours later with some kid with an accent playing with my feet.

No way I could do that with Mitt. He’s got a net worth of $200 million, for criminey’s sake. So out of touch! How can I relate to someone like that? Mitt’s worth as much as some big time celebrity – someone like – well, like Bruce Springsteen. (Saw that one coming, didn’t you?)

Now it’s not surprising to me that so many on the left excoriate Mitt’s wealth but excuse their own. That kind of Springsteenian, Streisandian, Roseanne Barr-ian hypocrisy has long been standard operating procedure. What’s surprising to me is how many on the right have picked up the “lets-have-a-beer” ball and run with it. We conservatives are the ones who think wealth indicates hard work and competence and should be rewarded, not demonized.

So why should we want a president that we can easily imagine inebriated?

Good Men in Context

The discussion from yesterday’s post continued on Facebook today, wherein my cousin lamented the fact that Brigham Young, because of his 19th Century racist views, could not possibly have been called of God as a prophet. That prompted another lengthy outburst from yours truly, an edited version of which I share below.


In every era of time when the Lord goes about choosing “good men” to be his leaders, it’s clear that he has a big problem. Since there are no perfect men, he’s forced to use the men that are available, who are “good” in varying degrees.

Many people reject the Old Testament because the people in it do all kinds of terrible things – even the people we’re supposed to believe are prophets of God. Lot, the only man with a family righteous enough to escape the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, ends up getting drunk and having sex with his daughters. Jacob, the man who stands at the head of the house of Israel, obtained his birthright by wearing animal hair and deceiving his blind father into believing he was blessing Esau. The Children of Israel, God’s chosen people, can’t seem to go ten minutes without breaking their covenants. Aaron, Moses’ right hand man, participates in the defiling of the law and the building of the Golden Calf.

Jonah. Samson. David. Solomon. All called of God; all lousy role models.

The New Testament is not without its problematic leaders, either. Paul, a man we’re told consented to the murder of the disciple Stephen, writes a letter to a Philemon, a slaveowner, that accompanies a runaway slave that Paul is helpfully returning to slavery. “Here’s your slave back, Philemon, old pal. Be really nice to him. He’s a good slave!” Shouldn’t Paul have kept Philemon’s slave away from bondage and decried the evil practice of slavery instead of, as he does in verse 22 of his Epistle to Philemon, ask his buddy the slave master to prepare a guest room for him upon his next visit?

Incidentally, a similar complaint was often raised against Jesus himself. He was the Messiah, after all, and yet he did not end the Roman occupation of the Jews and lead them into a great military overthrow of their vile oppressors. He even told the Jews to “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” despite the fact that Caesar was denying them the right to self-rule. How can he be considered a good man?

Paul lived in a world where slavery was commonplace and the societal norm, in a time where it didn’t even occur to anyone that the practice should be discontinued. By the same token, Brigham lived in a world where black people pretty much had no more rights than cattle, where Brigham’s government constitutionally defined black people as 3/5 of a human being, and where the prevailing religious wisdom was that black people were the seed of Cain, inherently evil, and therefore deserving of treatment as subhumans.

It would be nice if the Lord could always find “good men” if the definition of a “good man” was someone completely untainted by the wicked mores of the time, or, as the Book of Mormon speaks of this kind of thing, the “wicked traditions of their fathers, which were not correct.” The fact is that it doesn’t work that way, and, if the scriptures are any indication, it never has.

And we, as Latter-day Saints, should understand that better than anyone.

Our entire faith is predicated on the idea that agency, the freedom to be fallible, is the fundamental reason we’re here. We believe we rejected a plan that would have made us infallible in favor of this one, where a man who has been poisoned by the bigotry of his times is nevertheless called to do a great work – and the fruits of that work are impressive by any standard. They include, incidentally, the establishment of a moral framework and worldview that has done much good in the world, done by a church that was, at one point, led by an imperfect man named Brigham Young, who taught those good principles along with a handful of lousy ones. It is a better church now than it was when blessings were withheld from black members, but its goodness didn’t spring into existence with its repudiation of Brigham’s archaic racism in 1978.

Brigham Young in Context

I’ve talked about my church’s checkered racial track record on this blog before, but I suspect the issue will become increasingly interesting to the mainstream press as Mitt continues to plod his way toward the Republican nomination.

(Tom Smart/WASHINGTON POST) - Darius Gray, left, and Don H. Harwell, both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah.

So, like many Mormons, I read this article in the Washington Post with interest, and I found it to be generally fair and accurate, although I cringed mightily as BYU professor Randy Bott spouted racist folklore to justify the exclusion of black members of the church from leadership positions and temple worship. (My brother-in-law incidentally wrote a great column on this for the Deseret News that was published this morning – I recommend it to you with the highest possible praise.)

As the story developed, I was thrilled when the Church issued a very bold statement denouncing Bott and affirming the church’s commitment to racial equality. I repeat the statement here in full.

The positions attributed to BYU professor Randy Bott in a recent Washington Post article absolutely do not represent the teachings and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. BYU faculty members do not speak for the Church. It is unfortunate that the Church was not given a chance to respond to what others said.

The Church’s position is clear—we believe all people are God’s children and are equal in His eyes and in the Church. We do not tolerate racism in any form.

For a time in the Church there was a restriction on the priesthood for male members of African descent. It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago. Some have attempted to explain the reason for this restriction but these attempts should be viewed as speculation and opinion, not doctrine. The Church is not bound by speculation or opinions given with limited understanding.

We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.


This whole episode prompted a lengthy discussion with my cousin who, as I chronicled previously on this blog, has left the LDS Church for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the racism found in statements by former Church leaders. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m betting you’re going to hear quite a few of those statements during this election season, and some of them are pretty gruesome.

So, to beat the pundits to the punch, I’ll share one of them with you.

Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.
– Brigham Young, as found in the Journal of Discourses 10:111 


My cousin then went on to link this statement to the horrific lynching of a black Mormon who was murdered for his courtship of a white Mormon woman. My cousin cites the preceding statement as the impetus for the crime, calling Brigham a “tyrant of a prophet” who was “commanding coldblooded murder.” I had heard Brigham’s previous quote, but not the accompanying story, and I found it extraordinarily disturbing.

Then I read Brigham Young’s full sermon in which that quote is found, and I had a remarkable experience that I recounted to my cousin in the following reply, which has been edited here from its original form:


[Cousin], I had never read the full sermon from which your quote above was taken – until tonight. And I have you to thank for that, because I actually feel a whole lot better about Brigham Young’s racial attitudes than I ever have. Indeed, I think he’s getting a pretty bad rap here.

In the preceding paragraph to the one you quote, Brigham makes the following statement:

I am no abolitionist, neither am I a proslavery man; I hate some of their principles and especially some of their conduct, as I do the gates of hell.

What principles and conduct does he hate, then? In this sermon, he makes it clear that he hates how proslavery men feel they can abuse and savage their “property” at will. For instance, just two paragraphs after he makes the incendiary statement you posted, he says this:

If the Government of the United States, in Congress assembled, had the right to pass an anti-polygamy bill, they had also the right to pass a law that slaves should not be abused as they have been; they had also a right to make a law that negroes should be used like human beings, and not worse than dumb brutes. For their abuse of that race, the whites will be cursed, unless they repent.

I am neither an abolitionist nor a pro-slavery man. If I could have been influenced by private injury to choose one side in preference to the other, I should certainly be against the pro-slavery side of the question.”

Already, those past two paragraphs make him far more enlightened than a good chunk of the 19th Century populace. Consider, for instance, this statement:

I am not now, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social or political equality of the white and black races. I am not now nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor of intermarriages with white people. There is a physical difference between the white and the black races which will forever forbid the two races living together on social or political equality. There must be a position of superior and inferior, and I am in favor of assigning the superior position to the white man.

– Abraham Lincoln

But could anything possibly justify the incendiary statement you quoted at the outset? Let’s look at the money sentence, where Brigham says that “[i]f the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot.”

This comes in the midst of a sermon that, overall, has little or nothing to do with race. Every other mention of race is in the paragraphs I previously shared, and those are clearly derisive of white people who abuse slaves and treat them like animals. So why suddenly bring up the whole issue of a death penalty for interracial marriage?

Well, wait a minute. He makes no mention of marriage. And he only suggests one party in the group ought to be put to death – the “white man of the chosen seed.” Where is the mention of the black woman being put to death? It’s not there. Why isn’t it there? Because in the act Brigham is describing, those black women are victims who have done nothing wrong.

In 1863, when this sermon was given, there was no clamor for interracial marriage. The overwhelming majority of whites and blacks were repulsed by the idea, and Brigham would have had no need to rail against it.

So these “white men of the chosen seed” weren’t marrying these women; they were raping them.

Brigham, thankfully, wasn’t cool with that.

It was common practice, even among the relative handful of Latter-day Saints who owned slaves, to sexually assault their female slaves, causing some church leaders to decry the idea of men with “white wives” and “black concubines.” After all, the conventional wisdom went, there was no harm in doing whatever you wanted with what was wickedly considered to be mere subhuman property.

Brigham, again, is here saying that that’s just not cool. He’s saying that raping a black woman will call down the condemnation of God just as surely as the rape of a white woman will.

Incidentally, who are the “white men of the chosen seed?” If it’s all white men, then why does he add that “chosen seed” qualifier? Elsewhere in the same sermon, he rails against the pro-slavery whites in Missouri and their corruption and wickedness.

So they’re not the “chosen seed;” the Latter-day Saints are. So Brigham Young’s point, then, was that Latter-day Saints who rape their slaves deserve to be struck dead on the spot, and this “will always be so.”

I’m kinda OK with that.

Notice, too, that he talks about “the law of God,” and continually makes that the qualifier. In other words, that’s what these people deserve if God were fully in charge. But in many sermons, he also recognized the fact that the laws of God can only be enforced when God himself rules, and so, in the meantime we’re subject to the law of man – a law that Brigham himself was pretty much in charge of making.

So did Utah law call for the death penalty for interracial relationships? Nope. The law, according to an 1860 account, stated the following:

“Slaves coming into the Territory with their masters of their own free will, continue to be in all respects slaves, but cruelty and withholding proper food, raiment, etc., makes the ownership void. Every master or mistress who has carnal relations with his or her Negro slaves forfeits his or her right to the slaves, who thereby becomes the property of the commonwealth. Every individual man or woman who has carnal relations with a Negro or a negress who is sentenced to imprisonment not exceeding three years, and to a fine from 500 to 1000 dollars.” (A Journey To Great Salt Lake City 1:469-70)

So, with this context, suddenly Brigham looks pretty darned enlightened, really. Yes, just like far too many Protestants of his age, he believed black people were descended from Cain and carried a curse, but Brigham’s statement is actually a statement that rises above the prevailing sentiments of the day, a statement that says these slaves are human beings, not animals, and you priesthood holders will be held accountable before God for how you treat them.

Thus the linkage of the statement you quote and the horrific lynching of a black man who was Brigham Young’s friend and in his employ makes absolutely no sense. To claim Brigham was “commanding coldblooded murder” here is to completely invert Brigham’s intent. The murderers were breaking the laws that Brigham himself had placed on the books. They were committing the kind of act Brigham decried in his sermon – treating negroes like “worse than dumb brutes” and committing acts for which “the whites will be cursed, unless they repent.” So if they had heard Brigham’s sermon, they would have gotten condemnation, not encouragement.

This is not to say Brigham Young wasn’t a racist. Certainly, by today’s standards, he was. And if this quote had originated from a recent leader, I think there’s little question that whoever uttered those words should be removed from office, be it the President of the Church, an Apostle, or the guy who sets up the chairs.

In 1863, however, I think the Lord would have a very hard time finding leaders who had enough racial understanding to be as shocked by those words as we are today.

We’re told repeatedly that we learn line upon line; precept upon precept. Hymn #2, “The Spirit of God,” exults in the fact that “the Lord is extending the Saints’ understanding,” and I’m therefore very wary of judging social mores of 1852 by the light of what we now know as a church, a nation, and a world in 2012.


Thank you for reading this all the way through. Drive home safely.