Brigham Young is to blame for this one. The second president of the Mormon church decreed in 1852 that black men could not be priests, subscribing to a belief of the time that people of African descent were somehow spiritually inferior to white people, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. The policy got formally lifted in 1978, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had never fully explained what had been behind it until now, saying it had not known precisely why, how, or when the restriction on the priesthood began. A lengthy post on the church website not only discusses the origins of the policy but officially repudiates it for the first time.
The church "disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else," says the post. The leader of a black Mormon support group in Utah tells the AP that the disavowal is "way past due," but he'll take it. "These are the statements they should have made in 1978, but better late than never." (Read more Mormon stories.)