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Civil rights and Mormonism

Civil Rights and Mormonism have been intertwined since the religions start, with founder Joseph Smith writing on slavery in 1836. Initial Mormon converts were from the north and opposed slavery. This caused contention in the slave state of Missouri, and the church began distancing itself from abolitionism and justifying slavery based on the Bible. During this time, several slave owners joined the church, and brought their slaves with them when they moved to Nauvoo. The church adopted scriptures which teaches against influencing slaves to be "dissatisfied with their condition" as well as scriptures which teaches that "all are alike unto God." As mayor of Nauvoo, Joseph Smith prohibited blacks from holding office, joining the Nauvoo Legion, voting or marrying whites; but, as president of the Church blacks became members and several black men were ordained to the priesthood. Also during this time, Joseph Smith began his presidential campaign on a platform for the government to buy slaves into freedom over several years. He was killed during his presidential campaign. Some slave owners brought their slaves with them to Utah, though several slaves escaped. The church put out a statement of neutrality towards slavery, stating that it was between the slave owner and God. A few years later, Brigham Young began teaching that slavery was ordained of God and that equality efforts were misguided. Under his direction, Utah passed laws supporting slavery and making it illegal for blacks to vote, hold public office, join the Nauvoo Legion, or marry whites. In California, slavery was openly tolerated in the Mormon community of San Bernardino, despite being a free state. The US government freed the slaves and overturned laws prohibiting blacks from voting. After the Civil War, issues of civil rights went largely unnoticed until the civil rights movement. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People NAACP criticized the churchs position on civil rights, led anti-discrimination marches and filed a lawsuit against the churchs practice of not allowing black children to be troop leaders. Several athletes began protesting BYU over its discriminatory practices and the LDS Church policy that did not give black people the priesthood. In response, the Church issued a statement supporting civil rights and changed its policy on boy scouts. Apostle Ezra Taft Benson began criticizing the civil rights movement and challenging accusations of police brutality. After the reversal of the priesthood ban in 1978, the church has stayed relatively silent on matters of civil rights.


Mormon views on evolution

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints takes no official position on whether or not biological evolution has occurred, nor on the validity of the modern evolutionary synthesis as a scientific theory. In the 20th century, the First Presidency of the LDS Church published doctrinal statements on the origin of man and creation. In addition, individual leaders of the LDS Church have expressed a variety of personal opinions on evolution, many of which have affected the beliefs and perceptions of Latter-day Saints. There have been three public statements from the First Presidency 1909, 1910, 1925 and one private statement 1931 from the First Presidency about the LDS Churchs view on evolution. The 1909 statement was a delayed response to the publication of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. In the statement, the First Presidency affirmed their doctrine that Adam is the direct, divine offspring of God. The statement declares evolution as "the theories of men", but does not directly qualify it as untrue or evil. In response to the 1911 Brigham Young University modernism controversy, the First Presidency issued an official statement in its 1910 Christmas message that the Church members should be kind to everyone regardless of differences in opinion about evolution and that proven science is accepted by the Church with joy. In 1925, in response to the Scopes Trial, the First Presidency published a statement, similar in content to the 1909 statement, but with "anti-science" language removed. A private memo written in 1931 by the First Presidency to general church authorities confirmed a neutral stance on the existence of pre-Adamites. There are a variety of Church publications that address evolution, often with neutral or opposing viewpoints. In order to address students questions about the Churchs position on evolution in biology and related classes, BYU released a library packet on evolution in 1992. This packet contains the first three official First Presidency statement as well as the "Evolution" section in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism to supplement normal course material. Statements from Church Presidents are mixed with some vehemently against evolution and the theories of Charles Darwin, and some willing to admit that the circumstances of Earths creation are unknown and that evolution could explain some aspects of creation. In the 1930s, Church leaders Joseph Fielding Smith, B.H. Roberts, and James E. Talmage debated about the existence of pre-Adamites, eliciting a memo from the First Presidency in 1931 claiming a neutral stance on pre-Adamites. Since the publication of On the Origin of Species, some LDS scientists have published essays or speeches to try and reconcile science and Mormon doctrine. Many of these scientists subscribe to the idea that evolution is the natural process God used to create the Earth and its inhabitants and that there are commonalities between Mormon doctrine and foundations of evolutionary biology. Debate and questioning among members of the LDS Church continues concerning evolution, religion, and the reconciliation between the two. Although articles from publications like BYU Studies often represent neutral or pro-evolutionary stances, LDS-sponsored publications such as the Ensign tend to publish articles with anti-evolutionary views. Studies published since 2014 have found that the majority of Latter-day Saints do not believe humans evolved over time. A 2018 study in the Journal of Contemporary Religion, found that very liberal or moderate members of the LDS Church were more likely to accept evolution as their education level increased, whereas very conservative members of the LDS Church were less likely to accept evolution as their education level increased. Another 2018 study found that over time, LDS undergraduate attitudes towards evolution have changed from antagonistic to accepting. The researchers attributed this attitude change to more primary school exposure to evolution and a reduction in the number of anti-evolution statements from the First Presidency.


Mormon Political Manifesto

The "Mormon Political Manifesto" was a document issued by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1895 to regulate the involvement of its general authorities in politics. Up until the mid-1890s, the LDS Church had proactively supported the Peoples Party and entering politics had been seen as almost a part of several church leaders ecclesiastical responsibilities. Leading up to the issuance of the Manifesto, there was major disagreement about church members entering politics. Utah was transitioning to statehood and to a situation where the two national parties dominated Utah politics, and the church began to adopt a posture of political neutrality. The leaders of the church, led by church president Wilford Woodruff, decided to establish a written rule that the general authorities of the church would require the approval of the First Presidency before seeking public office. Apostle Moses Thatcher did not agree with this new rule and in 1896 was removed from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles over the issue. B. H. Roberts, a general authority of the church, resisted the Manifesto at first, but agreed to it in 1896 under threat of being removed from his position. More recently, the LDS Church has taken a more stringent rule on political involvement by its leaders. Current policies prohibit general authorities not only from running for office but also from contributing financially to political campaigns. This policy was implemented in 2011.


Mormonism and slavery

The Latter Day Saint movement has had varying and conflicting teachings on slavery. Early converts were initially from the Northern United States and opposed slavery, believing they were supported by Mormon scripture. After the church base moved to the slave state of Missouri and gained Southern converts, church leaders began to own slaves. New scriptures were revealed teaching against interfering with the slaves of others. A few slave owners joined the church, and took their slaves with them to Nauvoo, Illinois, although Illinois was a free state. After Joseph Smiths death, the church split. The largest contingent followed Brigham Young, who supported slavery but opposed abuse, allowing enslaved men and women to be brought to the territory but prohibiting the enslavement of their descendants and requiring their consent before any move and became The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints LDS Church. A smaller contingent followed Joseph Smith III, who opposed slavery, and became the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints RLDS. Young led his followers to Utah, where he led the efforts to legalize slavery in the Utah Territory. Brigham Young taught that slavery was ordained of God and taught that the Republican Partys efforts to abolish slavery went against the decrees of God and would eventually fail. He also encouraged members to participate in the Indian slave trade.


Sexuality and Mormonism

Sexuality has a prominent role within the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which teaches that gender is defined in the premortal existence, and that part of the purpose of mortal life is for men and women to be sealed together, forming bonds that allow them to progress eternally together in the afterlife. It also teaches that sexual relations within the framework of opposite-sex marriage is healthy, necessary, and ordained of God. In contrast with some orthodox Christian movements, sexuality in the Churchs theology is neither a product of original sin nor a "necessary evil". In accordance with the law of chastity, LDS Church doctrine bars sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage.


Utah Compact

The Utah Compact is a declaration of five principles whose stated purpose is to "guide Utahs immigration discussion." At a ceremony held on the grounds of the Utah State Capitol on November 11, 2010, it was signed by business, law enforcement and religious leaders including the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, and by various other community leaders and individuals.

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