Mormon Wellness Project: 017: One Man Standing: Nelson Lowry: Race and the Priesthood: Part One

One man standing tall in the fight for equality for all races in the LDS church in the 1940’s and 50’s was Nelson Lowry. This episode dramatizes his exchange of letters with the first presidency of the LDS church headed by George Albert Smith.


1947: Heber Meeks goes  to Cuba to evaluate possibility of opening up mission there

Meeks writes letter to Nelson Lowry (old schoolmate) who had previously been to Cuba as a sociologist  for the state department.

Lowry responds with letter to Meeks decrying racism in the church

Lowry sends copies of  letters exchanged with Meeks to the first presidency of the LDS church

First Presidency responds to Lowry in letter outlining  their  reasons for  policy denying blacks equal standing in the Mormon church.

Lowry responds to church claims, trying harder  to convince them.

1949:  The First Presidency issues official statement on race adding even more reasoning  why the church is  right and fair in denying blacks full rights within the gospel.

Aug 17, 1949 First Presidency statement

The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: “Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.” President Wilford Woodruff made the following statement:

“The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have.” The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the Church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintain their first estate; and that the worth of the privilege is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes.



“The Negro situation in Cuba presents a problem. There is no race discrimination other than social with groups as previously stated. They mingle together freely and also show, business and political activities. They have intermarried freely. There are not available accurate records to determine who has Negro blood among the average Cuban. ”

(“Report on Visit to Cuba“, Heber Meeks, 23 July 1947)


One thought on “Mormon Wellness Project: 017: One Man Standing: Nelson Lowry: Race and the Priesthood: Part One

  1. I think it is amazing the strong-arm tactics taken with Lowry. The position of the leadership seems to be “We are right, and you have no right to question us.”

    Its crazy that after all these years, even past 1978, it is not possible for any leadership to say, “we are sorry”…”we made a mistake”.

    “do what is right let the consequences follow”…yeh sure…OK.

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