Eugene England writes that Joseph Fielding Smith told him that "you don't have to believe that Negroes are denied the priesthood because of the pre-existence."

Eugene England
Scribed Paraphrase
2nd Hand

Eugene England, "The Mormon cross," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 8, no. 1 (1973): 78–86

Dialogue Foundation
Eugene England, Joseph Fielding Smith
General Public

The unrevealed doctrines which have been used to rationalize the policy have had as perhaps their most anguishing deficiency that they carry the implication that any change before the end of the world would be unjust. (Why should blacks up to a certain point suffer restrictions and not those after if they all "deserve" such restrictions?)

President Smith pointed this out forcibly to me on one occasion; and at the risk of being dismissed as another purveyor of questionable anecdotes about statements of modern prophets I ought to report that experience, not to prove anything, but to keep open some important possibilities. In the summer of 1963, agitation about the Church's policy was at a kind of peak, both nationally and within Church circles. I had expressed myself in Church situations as not being able to square the curse of Cain or preexistence "doctrines" with the Scriptures, central principles of the restored gospel, or my own best thinking and feeling. I was told bluntly that I could not be a Mormon in good standing without accepting those doctrines. I cared deeply about my standing in the Church and relationships with my brothers and sisters and wasn't about to lead a crusade and so was ready to seek an authoritative answer.

It came to my attention that Joseph Fielding Smith (then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) had published an article in the Church News about this matter and in the process had essentially contradicted one of his assumptions in his earlier discussion of the matter in The Way to Perfection, then calling blacks an ''inferior" race and now specifically saying they were not. Two of my friends who were concerned about the same matter, and, as I did, looked at President Smith as the nearly official scriptorian of the Church, made an appointment for us to see him. President Smith was not very anxious to see us since he was being baited from many sources at that time, but after some assurances of our intentions he gave us some time and was particularly gracious when one of my friends, moved I think by the prayer we offered together before going, began the interview by confessing in tears that his original motives for coming had been somewhat contentious. I told President Smith about my experiences with the issue of blacks and the priesthood and asked him whether I must believe in the pre-existence doctrine to have good standing in the Church. His answer was, "Yes, because that is the teaching of the Scriptures." I asked President Smith if he would show me the teaching in the Scriptures (with some trepidation, because I was convinced that if anyone in the world could show me he could). He read over with me the modern scriptural sources and then, after some reflection, said something to me that fully revealed the formidable integrity which characterized his whole life: "No, you do not have to believe that Negroes are denied the priesthood because of the pre-existence. I have always assumed that because it was what I was taught, and it made sense, but you don't have to to be in good standing because it is not definitely stated in the scriptures. And I have received no revelation on the matter." Then it was, as we continued our discussion, that he said, with what seems to be irrefutable logic, that if, as he believed, the reason for the denial was the pre-existence then there could be no expectation that blacks would receive the priesthood in this life, because that would not be fair to those who had been denied it up to that point.

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