Black Saints and the Priesthood (Joseph Smith era)

257 Primary Sources

400 - 500 AD

Septuagint records Ham account, using chi (χ) rather than the Greek equivalent of chet [ח].


Elihu Coleman explains that the belief that Black people are descended from Cain was common.


1782 "Negro Register" references Kino and her son "Peter."


African Society of Boston lists Joseph Ball Sr. as a founding member.


Ball family is classified as non-white in 1810.


Ball family is marked as "free colored persons" in the 1820 census.


Webster's 1828 Dictionary defines "black" as a "a negro; a person whose skin is black."


Joseph translates BOM, "God denieth none, bond & free, black & white."


1830 census lists Sarah Hofheintz as a free black woman.


In 1830, Ball was listed as "white" in the census.

Jun 1830 - Mar 1831

In Moses 7, Enoch was commanded not to teach people of Canaan.

Jun 1830 - Mar 1831

The Book of Moses records that "the seed of Cain were black and had not place among them."

Jul 1830

Joseph reveals Church to be governed "by common consent."

1831 - 1833

Joseph translates Moses including the phrase that Canaanites had "blackness" come upon them.

Feb 1831 - Mar 1831

Joseph adds that Canaan is cursed with a "vail of darkness" in his Bible translation.

Mar 26, 1831

Christian Register reports on Mormons in Kirtland and mentions a Black man who is said to have jumped 25 feet without injury.

Jul 12, 1831

Connecticut Courant reproduces an article where "Black Pete" is said to have jumped 25 feet without injury and believes he can fly.

Jul 12, 1831

Black Pete Kerr described as a "chief man."

Jul 17, 1831

W. W. Phelps includes text of alleged revelation from Joseph.

Aug 3, 1831

Middlebury Free Press reports on how the "Mormonites" have an African American member ("Black Pete") who believes he can fly.

Jul 1833

Phelps says "we have no special rule in the church, as to people of color."

Jul 16, 1833

Evening and Morning Star reports policy of not admitting Black people to the state or Church.

Jul 16, 1833

Richards clarifies previous article by saying that the Church has nothing to say about slavery and opposes free Black people entering the state on legal grounds.

Sep 11, 1833

Richards provides MS list of mob members.

Dec 16, 1833

Joseph Smith reveals "it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another."


David Child rejects the curse of Cain theory.


Wheatley discusses the outcome of her enslavement and describes Africans in Cain-like terms.

Jan 30, 1834

Farmers and Mechanics Advocate reprints Jackson County mob manifesto.


1835 First Presidency explains significance of content in Doctrine & Covenants.


1835 First Presidency explains why they included a section on government in the Doctrine and Covenants.

Feb 6, 1835

W. W. Phelps states that the mark and curse of Cain is black skin.

Mar 1835

W. W. Phelps believes black skin is an indicator of spiritual standing.

Aug 1835

Oliver Cowdery records a statement on slavery in 1835 Doctrine & Covenants 102 (now 134).

Dec 31, 1835

Unknown author composes hymn that celebrates future missionary work in Africa.

Jan 12, 1836

Joseph and others invite Black saints to come to worship at Kirtland Temple.

Mar 17, 1836

Cowdery records Kirtland Conference rejecting Ball as an Elder.

Mar 31, 1836

Joseph signs ministerial certificate for Able attesting to status as elder.

Apr 1836

Messenger and Advocate calls for masters of slaves to be converted and kind as well as calling emancipation "destructive" and interracial marriage "devilish."

Apr 1836

Messenger and Advocate states that people can buy and free slaves provided they go to a different continent.

Apr 1836

M&A comments on "degrading nature" of Black people.

Apr 1, 1836

Joseph advocates non-interference with slavery.

Apr 1836

Joseph talks about the potential effects of emancipation.

Apr 1836

Joseph interprets the Bible to justify his views on slavery.

Jul 18, 1836

Governor Dunklin maintains that Saints are abolitionists until proven otherwise.


Adam Clarke refers to Noah giving Ham Africa.


Weld criticizes use of Cain myth for African origins.

May 25, 1838

Wilford Woodruff describes Joseph Ball as "Elder."

May 25, 1838

Wilford Woodruff calls Joseph Ball an "Elder."

May 25, 1838

Wilford Woodruff serves with Joseph Ball on a mission.

Jul 1838

Woodruff describes working with Joseph Ball during the winter.

Aug 1838

Elders' Journal says there are Black people who "[wear] white skins."

Aug 31, 1838

Joseph, Rigdon, and the ER use "negro" identity disparagingly.

Sep 5, 1838

Glezen and Shepherd publishes pamphlet where Richard Weldon compared Saints to Black people with respect to voting rights.

Nov 12, 1838

Unknown witness notes Joseph did not laugh at a joke about Black people.

Dec 31, 1838

Edward Patridge relates how a team of Black people carried goods to the saints and were attacked.

Jan 1, 1839

Pratt notes role of perceived abolitionism in persecution.

Dec 12, 1839

Wilford Woodruff refers to Ball as "elder."

Dec 12, 1839

Joseph Ball has difficulty with other elders, which were settled.


Sarah Ann Mode Hofheintz listed as white in 1840 census.


Sarah Ann Mode Hofheintz listed as white in 1840 census.


The Ball family was listed as white in the 1840 census.


LaFayette C. Lee recalls Joseph saying that his words were, at times, cited as if scripture.

Aug 17, 1840

John Patten charges Elijah Fordham with playing a violin at a Black gala.

Oct 1840

First Presidency while announcing Nauvoo Temple says that "persons of . . . every colour" will worship in the temple.

Dec 15, 1840

Joseph Ball expresses his belief in the work.

1841 - 1844

William Walker recalls Joseph offering to give him a horse.

Jan 25, 1842

Joseph says indigenous peoples have more cause to complain than Black people.

Jan 25, 1842

Willard Richards records in Joseph's journal that Joseph described Black people as "sons of Cain."

Feb 1842

Book of Abraham states Pharaoh was restricted from the priesthood because of lineage.

Mar 7, 1842

Joseph condemns slavery in a letter to Bennett.

May 9, 1842

Sloan records Ball receiving an Elders License.

May 28, 1842

William Smith speculates that Boggs was shot "by one of his own negroes."

Nov 5, 1842

Joseph has a conversation with a group of indigenous people with a Black interpreter.

Dec 30, 1842

Joseph Smith recommends freeing, educating, and giving equal rights to slaves.

Jan 2, 1843

Joseph advocates for equal rights but segregation of races.

Jan 2, 1843

Joseph commends Black people who cultivate themselves.

Jun 7, 1843

Nauvoo Neighbor states that Black people are industrious.

Jun 14, 1843

Nauvoo Neighbor reports that a Black man was involved in a crime and he was burned to death.

Jun 25, 1843

Elijah Able holds calling as a seventy in Cincinnati.

Jul 1, 1843

Campbell writes an account of Saints in Clay County.

Jul 1843

Nott argues "probable extermination of the two races if the Whites and Blacks are allowed to intermarry."

Jul 14, 1843

Joseph makes a joke about Black people.

Jul 19, 1843

Letter to editor of Nauvoo Neighbor condemns the lynching of Black people.

Aug 16, 1843

J. C. Nott states that interracial marriage will produce infertile couples.

Aug 27, 1843

Joseph teaches that priestood comes from Gods, not from your parents.

Dec 1843

Joseph describes himself as "a friend of equal rights to all men."

Jan 2, 1844

Joseph urges for Missouri slaveowners and mobs to be punished.

Jan 2, 1844

Joseph considers Saints associated with plight of "rebellious n---ers."

Jan 26, 1844 - Feb 7, 1844

Joseph's presidential platform includes abolishing slavery.

Feb 7, 1844

Joseph lays out a plan for compensated abolition.

Feb 8, 1844

Joseph enforces anti-miscegenation law in Illinois.

Mar 6, 1844

Hyrum tells Jane Manning James that the one who put the mark on her forehead can remove it.

Mar 7, 1844

Joseph says Black people should be sent to Texas and Mexico "where all colors are alike."

Mar 10, 1844

William Clayton reports Alexander Badlam commenting on the "unfortunate race of beings the negroes."

Apr 6, 1844

John Taylor promises patriotic principles will protect Black people as well as "any other man."

Apr 6, 1844 - Apr 9, 1844

Joseph says the system Christ opened up is for all nations and colors.

May 12, 1844

Joseph teaches that the temple is a place for "all nations . . . to receive their endowments."

Jun 1, 1844

Ball serves as chair of Joseph's Boston election committee.

Jun 17, 1844

Joseph receives a warning from an anonymous Black person about plot against Joseph.

Oct 9, 1844

Woodruff writes to Brigham about William Smith's mismanagement of the branch.

Dec 31, 1844

Lucy commented on how "unlovely" the hut was that Salisbury had to give birth in.

Apr 27, 1845

Hyde uses premortal explanation to give an opinion on origins of Black people.

Apr 27, 1845

Hyde uses premortal explanation to give an opinion on origins of Black people.

Jun 1, 1845

George Hales records evidence that Able still held the priesthood in 1845.

Dec 24, 1845

Heber C. Kimball's journal records Hofheintz couple as receiving their endowment in Nauvoo.


John Whittier sees Enoch Lewis preaching.


Lucy mentions that there are Black people on their boat.

May 1, 1846

James Allen Scott describes details of the large assembly room for dedication services on the first floor of the Nauvoo Temple.

Sep 24, 1846

CHE-MO KO-MON describes large sanctuary for public meetings on the first floor of the Nauvoo Temple.

Mar 1, 1847

Robert Campbell provides basic details about William McCary.

Mar 26, 1847

Brigham praises Walker Lewis for his worthiness.

Apr 25, 1847

Pratt refers to Ham lineage as cursed with regards to the priesthood.

May 19, 1847

William Appleby recalls Walker Lewis as being meek, humble, and ordained by William Smith.

Jun 2, 1847

Appleby sees Lewis, an elder ordained by William Smith.

Jun 2, 1847

William Appleby gives details on Walker Lewis's life.

Jun 2, 1847

Appleby sees Lewis, an elder ordained by William Smith.

Jun 2, 1847

William Appleby refers to Walker Lewis, whose son had married a white woman.

Jun 2, 1847

Appleby notes the son of Lewis is married to a white woman.

Jun 16, 1847

Appleby writes he is ashamed to meet a white woman married to a Black man.

Dec 2, 1847

Brigham criticizes interracial marriage and mentions "if they were far away from the Gentiles they would all [h]av[e] to be killed."

Dec 2, 1847

William I. Appleby references the interracial marriage of Enoch Lewis.

Feb 13, 1849

Brigham says that Africans are cursed descendants of Cain.

Feb 1850

William Smith states that Orson Hyde ordained William McCary.

Mar 4, 1850

Wilford Woodruff records receipt of a letter from Quaku Walker Lewis.

Jun 1, 1851

Brigham states that the curse of Ham makes Black people servants and he forbids slavery.


Wilford Woodruff's summary of a February 13, 1849 meeting in which Brigham Young states that black people are inelligible for the Priesthood because of the curse of Cain.


Wilford Woodruff records reference to the curse of Cain and how that impacts blessings.

Jan 1, 1852

Utah act forbids interracial sexuality.


Josiah Priest rejects Cain theory in favor of the curse of Ham theory.


Fletcher argues that Ham married descendant of Cain.

Jan 16, 1852

Wilford Woodruff reports that Brigham offered an explanation for the ban.

Jan 16, 1852

WW records BY explaining priesthood/temple restriction

Jan 23, 1852

Brigham states Black people can't "bear rule" while cursed.

Jan 23, 1852

Brigham expresses his belief in a Biblical curse on Black people.

Feb 5, 1852

Brigham says that, as a prophet he knows, Black people are the children of Cain and "cannot bear rule in the priesthood."

Feb 5, 1852

Brigham denounces interracial marriage and gives an explanation for the priesthood and temple restrictions.

Feb 5, 1852

Brigham affirms the right of citizenship for Black people but denies the right of governance.

Feb 5, 1852

LaJean Carruth transcribes of Brigham's speech instituting the priesthood and temple restrictions.

Feb 5, 1852

Brigham expresses belief in the curse of Cain.

Nov 10, 1852

Quaku Walker Lewis returns from Utah and reopened his barber shop.

Feb 5, 1856 - Mar 16, 1856

Samuel Woolley provides an account of disciplinary action for interracial marriage.

Nov 3, 1856

Lowell Daily Citizen and News reports that Quaku Walker Lewis died of dropsy.

Oct 9, 1859

Brigham says that Black people cannot hold priesthood office because of the curse of Cain.

May 20, 1860

Brigham alludes to Joseph's alleged views on slavery.

Jun 11, 1860

The 1880 U.S. Census lists Rebecca Bentley (Meads) as a person of mixed-race.

Oct 8, 1860

Brigham says "we are all the children of one Father, whether we be … black or white."

Dec 31, 1860

Brigham tells Horace Greeley that slavery is "of divine institution" and will persist until the curse of Ham is removed.

Jan 1, 1861

N. B. Johnson inquires whether mixed-race ancestry makes him ineligible for priesthood.

Sep 25, 1861

Brigham Young says he would confer any blessing possible on Isaac Manning.

Mar 8, 1863

Brigham says that interracial marriage warrants death.

Aug 9, 1863

Harvard Professor Louis Agassiz gives opinion on the morality of "half-breeds."

Oct 6, 1863

Brigham states that curse of Ham still exists on Black people.

Dec 21, 1864

George A. Smith refers to Black Pete Kerr as a "revelator".

Dec 25, 1869

Brigham teaches Lorenzo Young that nobody was neutral in the war of heaven and teaches the curse of Cain.

Mar 19, 1870

Mobile Weekly Tribune reports on three Black Latter-day Saints in Mobile.

Apr 9, 1871

Brigham teaches that Cain was cursed with black skin.

May 1, 1873

Eighth Ward Minutes record that Samuel Chambers is appointed assistant deacon.


Brown rejects Cain origin for peoples of African ancestry.

Jul 4, 1874

Brigham refers to the priesthood and temple restrictions.

Dec 8, 1874

Thomas C. Jones records Samuel Chambers' testimony.

May 6, 1879

Joseph F. Smith reports on Abel's ordination.

May 6, 1879

Smith reports on Able's biographical details.

May 31, 1879

Zebedee Coltrin and Abraham Smoot claim Joseph said Black members could not hold the priesthood.

May 31, 1879

Zebedee Coltrin claims Joseph dropped Elijah Able from quorum of the seventy.

May 31, 1879

Zebedee Coltrin anoints Elijah Abel in the Kirtland Temple.

Jun 4, 1879

John Taylor states that he thought Abel's ordination was a mistake.

Jun 4, 1879

First Presidency meeting minutes record Joseph F. Smith repeating a statement by Elijah Able that Joseph said he (Able) was "entitled to the priesthood."

Jun 4, 1879

John Taylor states that he thought Abel's ordination was a mistake.

Jun 1, 1880

The U.S. Census reports that Harriet Church was listed as white and married to Thomas Church with eight children in Utah in 1880.

Nov 15, 1880

George Q. Cannon discusses canonization process.

Nov 15, 1880

John Taylor comments on importance of submitting decisions to body of Church.

Apr 13, 1882

Los Angeles Herald says that there are Black Saints and "The Prophet made no distinction as to race, color or previous condition of servitude.

Oct 1883

Missouri Supreme Court cites infertility as reason to ban interracial marriage.

Oct 25, 1883

H. M. Turner references Brigham explaining the priesthood and temple restrictions.

Oct 25, 1883

H. M. Turner comments on mixed-race marriage in 19th-century Utah.

Dec 13, 1883

Jackson County Banner reports on Elijah Able's missionary visit to Indiana.

Dec 20, 1883

Emporia Republican disparages Black Mormons and claims they join for polygamy.

Nov 14, 1884

Chattanooga Daily Times profiles the lives of Black Saints moving to Utah.

Dec 27, 1884

Jane Manning James tells Taylor that Emma invited her to be adopted as a child.

Dec 27, 1884

Jane Manning James was offered to be adopted by Joseph and Emma Smith.

Dec 31, 1884

Deseret News reports death of Elijah Able.

Jan 1888

W. R. Hine's claims that "Black Pete" claimed a revelation to marry a white woman (a daughter of F. G. Williams).

Apr 1888

Henry Carroll recalls "Black" Pete's activities in Kirtland.

Apr 1888

Miller recounts "Black Pete" being a good singer and the physical abuse he once suffered during a meeting.

Apr 1888

Harmon states that young LDS women chased after "Black Pete" in his 1888 statement.

Feb 7, 1890

Jane Manning James writes to Joseph F. Smith about receiving the endowment, about adoption, and about being sealed to Walker Lewis.

Sep 7, 1890

Joseph invites Jane Manning James to be adopted into family.

Oct 1, 1890

Heber J. Grant records Lorenzo Snow's remembrance of Brigham Young's teachings on the reasons for the priesthood ban.


Registration of 1891 Deaths of L. Ball lists J. Ball Sr. as being from Jamaica, West Indies.

Mar 25, 1893

George Q. Cannon notes the lack of interracial marriage in Utah.

Dec 31, 1893

Jane Manning James recalls Joseph welcoming and complimenting her faith.


Jane Manning James writes her autobiography.


Jane Manning James accounts her Presbyterian experience in Connecticut.


Jane Manning James recounts Emma asking her to be adopted into Smith family.


In 1894 registration of deaths in Boston, M. Ball's father, J. Ball Sr., is listed as being from Jamaica, West Indies.

Jan 15, 1894

Zina D. H. Young recalls Joseph's and Emma's invitation for James to be adopted.

Jun 1, 1894

Lydia Alder records Jane Manning James's patriarchal blessing being read during a May 1894 Women's Meeting.

Aug 22, 1895

Cannon states that Joseph taught that the seed of Cain could not receive the priesthood.

Mar 14, 1896

Broad Ax newspaper cites Republican operative who supports Samuel Chambers being in legislature.

Oct 5, 1896

Richards says that Joseph taught that the "seed of Cain" would not receive their "final redemption" until after the "seed of Abel . . . should all have their opportunity."

Dec 16, 1897

Cannon states that he was told by John Taylor in Nauvoo about Joseph Smith's priesthood ban teachings.

Mar 25, 1899

Broad Ax reports on Alex Bankhead and Miranda Redd's faithfulness to Mormonism.

Oct 2, 1899

Salt Lake Herald-Republican describes some of Jane Manning James's life in the Church.


Joseph and Emma invite Jane Manning James to board with them.

Nov 1, 1903

Salt Lake Tribune references Able's relationship with Joseph.

Dec 17, 1903

Deseret News refer's to Able's relationship with Joseph.

Apr 7, 1905

Salt Lake Telegram notes attendance of Jane Manning James and her brother Isaac at April 1905 General Conference.

Oct 7, 1906

Richard Young cites anti-slavery as the cause for persecution of the Saints in Missouri.

Dec 1906

Mary Adams remembers Joseph gifting a horse to Stebbins.

Apr 16, 1908

Deseret Evening News obituary celebrates Jane Manning James for her faithfulness and friendships.

Apr 21, 1908

Deseret News reports funeral of Jane Manning James.

Aug 26, 1908

Joseph Fielding Smith states that Joseph declared Able's ordination "null and void."

Dec 1, 1909

Nelson Ritchie tells John Whitaker that his children had been sealed.

Dec 1, 1909

John Whitaker cites "one drop" rule in justifying restricting Nelson Ritchie from receiving sealing.

Mar 1916

In John Kerr's will, "Black Pete" is called "John."


Jenson gives date for Able's ordination as an Elder and a Seventy.

Aug 18, 1921

B. H. Roberts comments on canonization process.

May 10, 1924

Deseret News describes Samuel and Amanda Chambers as being a worthy, generous couple.

Jan 15, 1938

Moss describes Morley's group as speaking in unknown tongues, including "Black Pete" who felt compelled to preach to the Indigenous persons.


Joseph Fielding Smith explains the application of Moses 7 in missionary work among the "Canaanites."

Apr 19, 1961

Lee contests legitimacy of Able's ordination.

Apr 10, 1963

Joseph Fielding Smith reports that Joseph instituted priesthood and temple restriction.

Jul 8, 1964

Harold B. Lee offers criteria for doctrinal authoritativeness.


Hugh B. Brown comments on what makes teachings binding.

Jan 1973

Lester Bush offers source on how John Taylor felt Joseph was wrong on Elijah Able's ordination.


Ronald K. Esplin states his view that Brigham's views on priesthood ban were rooted in revelation.


Esplin concludes that Brigham's views on priesthood ban were rooted in revelation.


Atlas of World Cultures defines the term "Hottentot."


Blau highlights use of two kinds of letters for _chet_.


Görög-Karady, highlights how Vili see selves as prototypical humans, whites as cursed.


Elwin C. Robison describes similarities of the general congregational spaces in the Kirtland and Nauvoo Temples.


Nibley suggests that the priesthood restriction is related to matriarchal succession rather than race.


Susan and Harvey Black discuss how Able participated in baptisms for the dead in Nauvoo.


Don F. Colvin describes the rooms used for ordinances in the attic story of the Nauvoo Temple.


Stephen Haynes argues that associating Biblical curse language with Black people was common in the mid-nineteenth-century.


Klieman dates peoples in central Africa during era of flood.


Goldenberg explains how C became identified with black skin.


Middleton explains general circumstances of Black people in 1830s Ohio.


Anderson and Bergera document history of those who received temple ordinances in Nauvoo.


Taylor provides account of Cincinnati race riot of 1841, when Able lived there.


Anderson and Bergera list members of Quorum of the Anointed in Nauvoo.


Draper, Brown, and Rhodes describe Ham/Canaan as "Black."

2006 - 2014

Donald Mayne reports on a First Presidency discussion to determine whether the son of Harriet Church could receive the priesthood.


Connell O'Donovan writes regarding Q. Walker Lewis's passing.


Staker provides biographical summary of "Black Pete."

Mar 28, 2009

Connell O'Donovan summarizes interracial marriage incident involving Laura Jane Berry.

Mar 28, 2009

Connell O'Donovan provides account of interracial marriage in the 19th-century Church.


Eric Foner explains antebellum American racism.


Jane Manning James was "attached" to Joseph Smith as a "Servitor for eternity."

Feb 16, 2014

Staker provides biographical summary of "Black Pete."


Reeve discusses historical reasons for the priesthood ban.


Reeve speculates that "Black" Peter Kerr may have been ordained to the priesthood.


Bringhurst provides table listing Black people in Nauvoo during the Mormon Sojourn, 1839–1846.


Jane Manning James receives a patriarchal blessing from John Smith in 1889.


Jane Manning James receives a patriarchal blessing from Hyrum Smith in 1844.


Jane Manning James is "attached as a Servitor for eternity to the Prophet Joseph Smith" in the Salt Lake Temple.

Jan 15, 2021

The 1880 U.S. Census lists Rebecca Meads as white.

May 18, 2021

Moss summarizes Rwandan weather.

Jan 19, 2022

Nelson Ritchie endowed and sealed after his death.

Jan 19, 2022

Family Search records show that Johanna Provis was endowed and sealed.

Jan 19, 2022

Family Search records that Harriet Church was baptized in 1876; endowed and sealed in 1903.

Jan 19, 2022

1850 U.S. Census lists Harriet Church as an enslaved seven-year-old.

Jan 19, 2022

Family Search records show that Rebecca Meads was endowed and sealed in 1863.

Jan 20, 2022

Family Search records that Sarah Hofheintz was endowed and sealed to spouse in 1845 and 1855.

Jun 23, 2022

William Knopp was sealed to his parents and his first wife, Jane Vale on April 29, 1845.