“Are All Alike Unto God?”

B.Y.U. Professor Eugene England, Ph.D.

Originally published: Sunstone 15, no. 2 (April 1990): 21–31. See also, Lowell L. Bennion, Understanding the Scriptures (Salt lake City: Deseret Book, 1986), 35–

“Lowell Bennion has articulated a useful guideline when the scriptures, or Church leaders, apparently contradict each other. He suggests we look for the great central principles that are repeated again and again, especially by Christ, and judge all other claims or notions by them. He writes, “I do not accept any interpretation of scriptural passages that portrays God as being partial, unforgiving, hateful, or revengeful. It is more important to uphold the character and will of God than it is to support every line of scripture.” In that spirit, it seems to me we must not accept any interpretation or scripture, or any statement by a Church leader or teaching in a Church meeting or Church school class that denies or diminishes the clear, central doctrine that all are alike unto God, black and white, male and female.” 

…Simply, as Stuart Pace pointed out, that such theology denies the “universal atonement” of Christ by telling blacks they did something wrong in the pre-existence but that they can neither know what they did nor repent of it. It thus introduces, against the many scriptures that claim the Atonement is universal and all are born innocent into life, the notion that there are differences, color-coded by race in the plan of salvation. And it denies all common sense: There are people with every possible degree of black inheritance; How “white’’ do you have to be to inherit Abraham’s blessings instead of Cain’s curse or the pre-existence stigma: 10 percent, 50 percent, 99 44/100 percent? And it denies all our experience: It implies that all the best black people in the world—Martin luther King, Elijah Abel, Alan Cherry, Catherine Stokes, my student—did something in the pre-existence that makes them intrinsically, spiritually, inferior to the worst white people in the world, such as Hitler, Stalin, Hofmann, Bundy. And this damning idea that all blacks are spiritually inferior because of some unknown act or choice in the pre-existence directly denies one of the most beautiful and important and absolutely clear Book of Mormon scriptures, 2 Nephi 26:33: “[The lord| doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness . . . and all are alike unto God, both [black and white]”(my emphasis). This scripture does not suggest, of course, that there are no physical or cultural differences between races but simply that there are no differences “unto God,” that is, gradings that are essential, spiritual, that imply different value or potential or processes of salvation and exaltation between races”