This is part of the DR Book Collection.
The priesthood restriction in LDS history is one of the most controversial elements of Mormonism. Last year, I declared Paul Reeve’s Religion of a Different Color to be “the book for understanding the history of the priesthood ban.” Yet, Reeve largely focused on Mormon racialization in the 19th century. Russell Stevenson’s For the Cause of Righteousness: A Global History of Blacks and Mormonism, 1830-2013 covers–as the title indicates–the history of blacks in the Church from its origins to modern times. While figures like Elijah Abel are becoming more familiar to everyday Mormons, few are likely aware of the various situations involving the Church in Africa prior to the lifting of the priesthood ban. Stevenson does an excellent job of fleshing out the global context of the Church’s shaky relationship with blacks. It’s a story that predominantly white American Mormons would do well to learn.
What I didn’t realize before starting the book was that it is split in half between historical narrative and important documents. This makes Stevenson’s book somewhat unique in that one can read the first half to get an informative overview of the black history in the Church, but then use the latter half as a reference tool. This approach was both unexpected and welcome. For me, Stevenson and Reeve are my go-to sources for black history in the Church. And this book is an excellent example of why.
You can see a lecture by Stevenson below.