Dear Gramps,I recently received your new book, and know it will provide me with many hours of “pondering” the new (to me) ideas I found there. I also greatly enjoy the “Ask Gramps” section @ LDS Events. I heard about a Saint of African decent, Elijah Able, who received the priesthood prior to 1978. I was not aware that this had happened. Would you be so kind as to furnish me with more information about him?
Mike, from Kenner, Louisiana
Here is a copy of the minutes of a special Conference of the Cincinnati branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, 1 June 1845.
“The conference met agreeable to previous appointment, and was called to order by Elder Crippin. Elder John W. Crippin was appointed president, and George Hales clerk. The conference was opened by singing and prayer by Elder Abraham Wright. Present three seventies, two elders, one priest, and two teachers. The President then laid before them the object of the conference. Elder Elijah Able then preferred a charge against Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Evans, and Miss Jane Roberts, for absenting themselves from the meeting of this branch, and speaking disrespectfully of the heads of the church. It was then moved and seconded that they be expelled from the church, which was done by a unanimous vote. The branch numbers thirty two members, all in good standing. There has been four baptized since last conference. It is with pleasure we inform our brethren and friends that there is more union existing in this branch than there has been for the last three years, for which we give God the glory. Motioned and carried, that the minutes of this conference be sent to the editor of the “Times and Seasons” for publication. The conference then adjourned (sine die). JOHN W. CRIPPIN, (Pres.)” (Conference Minutes., Times and Seasons, vol. 6 (January 15, 1845-February, No. 10. Nauvoo, Illinois, June 1, 1845 Whole No. 118. 916.)
It is shown here that Elijah Able was an Elder in good standing in the Cincinnati Branch in 1845. The Prophet Joseph Smith in his journal entry for 6 June, 1841, mentions Jodiah Able as a member of a group of men in Nauvoo who had banded together to rescue the prophet when he was arrested while staying at Heberlin’s Hotel, in Bear Creek, about twenty-eight miles south of Nauvoo. (See Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 4:365).
In The Encyclopedia of Mormonism Daniel Ludlow, gives an interesting summary of the history of the priesthood restrictions to those of African descent
“The reasons for these restrictions have not been revealed. Church leaders and members have explained them in different ways over time. Although several blacks were ordained to the priesthood in the 1830s, there is no evidence that Joseph Smith authorized new ordinations in the 1840s, and between 1847 and 1852 Church leaders maintained that blacks should be denied the priesthood because of their lineage. According to the book of Abraham (now part of the Pearl of Great Price), the descendants of Cain were to be denied the priesthood of God (Abr. 1:23-26). Some Latter-day Saints theorized that blacks would be restricted throughout mortality. As early as 1852, however, Brigham Young said that the “time will come when they will have the privilege of all we have the privilege of and more” (Brigham Young Papers, Church Archives, Feb. 5, 1852), and increasingly in the 1960s, Presidents of the Church taught that denial of entry to the priesthood was a current commandment of God, but would not prevent blacks from eventually possessing all eternal blessings.” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, p.125).