Last Friday night (September 1st) I caught the first segment of Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees. The show “Polygamy in America: Cult or Calling?” was, predictably, about Warren Jeffs, the recently arrested leader of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Anderson Cooper broadcast portions of a “rare audio recording” of Mr. Jeffs preaching to his followers. The first excerpt was about first wives and their need to be submissive to their husbands. I’m sure that for many viewers this was upsetting enough, but it was the second excerpt that really caught my attention. From the program transcript (Mr. Cooper’s intro to the second excerpt and beyond):
COOPER: Jeffs also spews hate, warning his believers of a wicked world.W. JEFFS: You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, or rude and filthy, uncomely, disagreeable, and low in their habits, wild and seemingly deprived of nearly all of the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind.
COOPER: Brent Jeffs is the nephew of Warren Jeffs. Here’s how he describes his uncle.
BRENT JEFFS, NEPHEW OF WARREN JEFFS: He puts on a front like he’s a very nice man, a very giving man, very happy, but underneath all that he’s very dark and very evil.
Warren Jeffs’ words are indeed shocking. I don’t know the context of his remarks, but I do know those words did not originate with Warren Jeffs.
While Anderson Cooper is probably not aware of this (it was never mentioned during the remainder of the show according to the transcript), in this portion of the recording Mr. Jeffs was quoting Brigham Young nearly word for word.
On October 9, 1859 Brigham Young delivered a sermon in the Salt Lake City Tabernacle in which he preached on the “disagreeable” people of African descent. Here are his remarks in their greater context:
You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind. The first man that committed the odious crime of killing one of his brethren will be cursed the longest of any one of the children of Adam. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race–that they should be the “servant of servants;” and they will be, until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree. How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? That curse will remain upon them, and they never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof. Until the last ones of the residue of Adam’s children are brought up to that favourable position, the children of Cain cannot receive the first ordinances of the Priesthood. They were the first that were cursed, and they will be the last from whom the curse will be removed. When the residue of the family of Adam come up and receive their blessings, then the curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will receive blessings in like proportion. (Journal of Discourses, 7:290-291)
When Warren Jeffs repeated Brigham Young’s words, was he really warning of a wicked world as Anderson Cooper suggested? Could be. Or Mr. Jeffs, as their current prophet, may have been teaching his followers to heed the words of a man they all revere as a previous true prophet of God.
Of course, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also revere Brigham Young as a true prophet of God. I wonder what Mormons think, or how they feel, to hear Warren Jeffs described as “spewing hate,” and “very dark and very evil,” in connection with his repetition of the official teachings of Mormonism’s second prophet and president.
Since LDS officials continuously and vigorously insist that Warren Jeffs and his church have absolutely nothing to do with Mormonism, perhaps Latter-day Saints just don’t know.