brigham young university should consider changing their name
By Elizabeth Basok
Brigham Young is the second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) who led Mormons to Salt Lake City, making the city the Mormon hub that it is today. Young opened an academy, which later became known as Brigham Young University (established in 1875), which still bears his name today. Brigham Young University (BYU) is affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the beginning, as Young wanted a religious institution that could offer a “…good education unmixed with the pernicious atheistic influences that are found in so many of the higher schools of the country” (Bills 2003). While the aim to open a Mormon- centered school is admirable, it’s clear that through research of Young’s teachings that Young has proven himself to be a problematic person who held deeply racist views, views that he brought into politics and into the teachings of the of the LDS church. For these reasons, I believe that it is time to consider a new name for this LDS institution, a name that would better reflect the current beliefs and values of the church.
The founder of the LDS Church, Joseph Smith, died in 1844, which left Young to take over as president. Under Young’s leadership, Young “prohibited the ordination of blacks” (Bringhurst and Harris). If you don’t know what this means, it means that Black men could not hold the priesthood (cannot become bishops) and Black men and women could not partake in temple rituals (Green 2017). This ban happened in 1852, in a country that still enslaved people; however, this ban remained in effect until 1978. This means that the LDS Church upheld this racist policy through the Civil War and through the Civil Rights Movement.
While Young strongly supported slavery, as well as a “black priesthood ban” (Bringhurst and Harris), his racism does not stop there. He also stated “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” (Bringhurst and Harris). He went on to claim that individuals of mixed race would not be able to reproduce, comparing them to mules (Bringhurst and Harris). This implies that he believed that people of a different race were similar to another species. His belief in white supremacy is clear and undebatable.
You might be asking yourself, why are we holding Young to today’s moral standards? It seems clear that Young’s positions were even radical at that time. To excuse his discriminative views by chalking it up to “it was a different time,” ignores the real harm that he did to members of his church and community. It ignores that the abolitionist movement was so vocal at this time, the abolitionist views were so well known at this time, but he chose to hold his bigoted views. While we ought to remember our past prophets, if they advocated for hate and violence, we should not name institutions after them in the very least.
3 Responses to “brigham young university should consider changing their name”
I am not really one to attack religion. It is not my style. I am just wondering, if people literally should go around saying they are religious but hold on to ideologies such as feminism?
Technically, you cannot because it literally is a clash of thoughts. Thus I have began to see where these little insurrections began. So, I reflected on Evergreen state college. I do not think there is any point to people breaking a religion unless, you are a fascist.
If you disagree, leave a comment back. It is good to have feedback and push these boundaries.
There is a whole lot here where facts are very much mixed up with a whole lot of error. For example:
“While Young strongly supported slavery, as well as a “black priesthood ban” (Bringhurst and Harris), his racism does not stop there. He also stated “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” (Bringhurst and Harris). He went on to claim that individuals of mixed race would not be able to reproduce, comparing them to mules (Bringhurst and Harris). This implies that he believed that people of a different race were similar to another species. His belief in white supremacy is clear and undebatable.”
First of all, it is simply a fact that Young did not support slavery and while governor of Utah actually passed laws based on Northern free states that formally transformed Utah into a free territory. IN fact, Young proclaimed:
“Restrictions of law and government make all servants; but human flesh to be dealt in as property, is not consistent or compatible with the true principles of government. My own feelings are, that no property can or should be recognized as existing in slaves, either Indian or African. No person can purchase them without their becoming as free, so far as natural rights are concerned, as persons of any other color….Thus will a people be redeemed from servile bondage both mental and physical, and placed upon a platform upon which they can build; and extend forth as far as their capability and natural rights will permit; their thralldom will no longer exist, although the seed of Canaan will inevitably carry the curse which was placed upon them, until the same authority which placed it there, shall see proper to have it removed.”
Secondly, he did support the priesthood ban. This is a fact.
Third, in addition to only partially quoting him the very quote itself is highly suspect. He was not penned by Young, but by George Watt. Modern scholarship has shown that Watt intentionally and repeatedly altered the text of church leaders without their knowledge or permission, often deleting entire pages of their comments and substituting his own beliefs. Nothing by his is trustworthy, including this quote, especially a sit openly contradicts other things Brigham Young said..
Fourth, it is highly possible that Young believed this, but that is only because he believed the science of his day. And yes, prominent scientists of his era taught that when people of different races had children then their children would be sterile. Treating Brigham Young poorly based on his believing and accepting what was taught as science in his day is a really weird and contradictory standard to have.
I found this article to be a far better exploration of what exactly Brigham Young believed about race and racism.
Also, repeatedly making references which you never actually explain or provide direct reference links to is a bit nonsensical and confusing.
The article you cite states,” The first thing we must acknowledge is a simple fact: Brigham Young was a racist.”