The Fallibility of the Tribe of Levi Analogy

W. Paul Reeves

“Let’s Talk About Race and Priesthood” p. 116. Published by Deseret Book 2023.

“The tribe of Levi analogy, however, begins with a false premise- -that only the tribe of Levi held the priesthood anciently. Book of Mormon peoples were not Levites, and they held the priesthood, as did other Old Testament leaders such as Melchizedek and Elijah.

Even if we confine ourselves to the tribe of Levi’s role in the tabernacle, I still believe it is a poor analogy. None of the other tribes were prevented from partaking of the ordinances necessary for their salvation in the way that the temple and priesthood restrictions prevented people of Black African descent from so doing. The tribe of Levi was given authority to administer tabernacle rituals for and in behalf of the other tribes. Their function was to welcome the other tribes into the tabernacle and help them to make their sacrifices as prescribed by the law (see Numbers 3-5). In contrast, the priesthood and temple restrictions prevented Black Latter-day Saints from entering the temple and receiving the ordinances necessary for their salvation. As historian Ardis Parshall succinctly put it, “Restricting priesthood to one narrow part of the faithful is not the same as restricting priesthood from one narrow part of the faithful.”