Join Editor Taylor Petrey as he interviews Matthew L. Harris about his Fall 2022 article “Joseph Fielding Smith’s Evolving Views on Race: The Odyssey of a Mormon Apostle-President” or the 32nd Dialogue Out Loud.
…The apostle had authored several books defending the ban and he was the Church’s most aggressive leader condemning Mormon intellectuals who criticized it. Smith saw himself as the guardian of Mormon orthodoxy, not just on matters of race and lineage but also on issues like evolution and doctrinal exegesis.Yet over the course of Smith’s long ministry, and especially during the last decade of his life, he began to envision a more inclusive LDS Church for persons of African ancestry. He took dramatic steps to both convert and retain Black Latter-day Saints. It was less a change in how Smith read scripture and more about the turbulent times in which he lived. The civil rights movement—and more critically Smith’s own awareness of how the priesthood and temple ban affected Black members—convinced him to reimagine a place for them within the Church.