110 years ago today - Nov 18, 1910

[Joseph F. Smith & Anthon Lund]
This is in answer to President B[righam]. A. Hendricks' letter to you of the 4th ult. with respect to the right of Negroes to be baptized in behalf of their deceased ancestors. It is true, as intimated in yours of Oct[ober]. 25th to President Hendricks that no ordinances are being performed in the temple in behalf of deceased Negroes, neither can temple ordinances be performed in behalf of the Negro race involving the bestowal of the holy priesthood upon them. But inasmuch as Negroes living in the flesh can become members of the Church through baptism, we do not hesitate to say that Negroes may be baptized and confirmed in behalf of their kindred dead, which is all that can be done for tem until the Lord shall direct otherwise.

But in thus answering we do not wish President Hendricks or his successors in office to encourage the Negro saints of South Africa to emigrate to Zion in order that they may be in a position to do temple work in behalf of their dead. In fact, the same general instructions apply to our elders with respect to the Negro race as applies to them with respect to the whites, and that is not to preach the gathering or encourage any to emirate, but rather to leave this entirely with the saints themselves, so that they cannot truthfully blame the Church should any of them come here and become dissatisfied and want to return.

We note that President Hendricks says in his letter to you in effect that the labors of himself and elders are among the white class of people, and not the blacks. This is as it should be, and we trust that this understanding will be clearly had by all of our missionaries laboring in South Africa, and who may be called to labor there hereafter. In the Book of Moses (Pearl of Great Price) Chapter 7, verse 12, we learn that Enoch in his day called upon all the people to repent save the people of Canaan, and it is for us to do likewise. But at the same time where honest-hearted Negroes who perchance hear the gospel preached, become pricked in their hearts and ask for baptism, it would not by becoming in us to refuse to administer that ordinance in their behalf. And where such brethren and sisters desire to have their temple work done in behalf of their deceased kindred, let them furnish the Mission President with the names of their dead, together with the genealogy, as fully as they may be able to give it, who may forward the same to us, and we will see that baptism is performed in their behalf, and we will instruct the temple recorder to inform the Mission President when the work shall have been done.

[Joseph F. Smith and Anthon H. Lund, Letter to Rudger Clawson, as quoted in Minutes of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1910-1951, Privately Published, Salt Lake City, Utah 2010]

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