Margaret Young’s latest piece on Official Declaration #2 gives us a taste of the sheer complexity that (ought to) undergird any conversation on race in Mormonism. I have earlier noted that Young had ascribed change in Mormonism to the relationship activists had with church leadership. Yesterday, she (quite rightly) responded by pointing out that for every voice on the inside of the Church hierarchy (and there were plenty), there were two voices for change on the outside. Continue reading
For my book, Black Mormon: The Story of Elijah Ables, click here
Official Declaration #2 is often cast–in its most generous light–as the Church’s efforts to usher in a new era of racial pluralism and globalization. President Kimball had long dreamed of “when all the world will be converted,” and this was merely the next step. It speaks to what I call the dispensational interpretation of Official Declaration #2. Because Peter received a vision to “take the gospel to the Gentiles,” we assume that Official Declaration #2 was merely another incarnation of that. The interpretation has become almost axiomatic. Continue reading
This should in no way serve as an argument against recognition of gay marriage.
The comparison between the priesthood ban excluding the blacks and the Church’s opposition to gay marriage is practically begging to be made (see also here and here)–especially if you want the Mormon leadership to change their tune on gay marriage: “If the Church could change on this, then why not?
Why not, indeed?
Elijah Abel/Ables is such a fascinating figure. Thanks to the research that can be found in my book on him, we learn that we have probably been spelling his name wrong all this time.
Most renderings suggest that Elijah’s name was spelled “Elijah Abel.” Indeed, W. Kesler Jackson’s recent biography of him makes it appear that he has found the signature of Elijah Abel; however, as one of his editors told me, the “signature” was “just a pretty font.” The only instances we have of people spelling his name “Elijah Abel” are when white people are doing the recording.
According to two early manuscript sources, Elijah spelled his name alternatively as “Elijah Ables” and “Elijah Able.” In 1854, a letter from “Elijah Ables” came to the office of Brigham Young. The letter specifically indicates that this letter belonged to someone in the Appleton M. Harmon company, making it a positive ID for the first black Elder. Four years later, Elijah signed a receipt of payment as “Elijah Able.”
So before people get bent out of shape over an authorial decision, it would be well to look at the manuscript evidence first. As with many nineteenth-century Americans, he was not at all committed to one spelling. The 1860 and 1870 censuse reports render it as Able and Ables, respectively. Additionally, newspapers spelled the Able/Ables name as “Able,” “Ables,” “Abel,” and even “Abels,” sometimes within the same paragraph.
We misspellers are in good company.
1) Elijah Ables, Letter to Brigham Young, March 14, 1854