The Atlantic

When Mormons Aspired to Be a ‘White and Delightsome’ People

A historian looks at the legacy of racism in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Source: Jim Urquhart / Reuters

So many recent events in American life have been a call for the country to grapple with its legacy of racism and white supremacy, including the violence in Charlottesville and even the 2016 election. These events have created turmoil among some conservative Christian groups, who have tried—in fits and starts—to confront their own racial divisions.

One group, however, has taken a slightly different path: Mormons. While a majority of Mormons voted for Trump in the 2016 election, he fared far worse than previous Republican presidential candidates among the minority religious group. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, many in Mormon-heavy Utah doubted the president’s moral character and strength as a role model.

Like other religious groups, Mormons have a complicated history around race. Until a few decades ago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints taught that they “shall be a white and a delightsome people,” a phrase taken from the Book of Mormon. Until the 1970s, the LDS Church also restricted black members’ participation in important rituals, and prohibited black men from becoming priests.

Max Perry Mueller, a historian at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, argues that Mormonism is a

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