ALPINE, Utah (ABC4) – After making controversial comments regarding race and a touchy issue in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ history, a Church leader and BYU professor has apologized and promised “to do better.”
Brad Wilcox, who serves as the Second Counselor of the Young Men General Presidency, came under fire after a video recording of an address he made at a youth fireside in Alpine on Monday made the rounds on social media. Speaking from the pulpit, Wilcox referred to the Church’s previous policy on withholding the priesthood from people of “black African descent” in a way that many found offensive and troubling.
“Maybe we’re asking the wrong question,” Wilcox stated in the video, hypothetically responding to the question of why the Church prohibited its Black and African members from the full benefits of the faith. “Maybe instead of saying why did the Blacks have to wait until 1978, maybe what we should be asking is why did the whites and other races have to wait until 1829?”
According to Church history, 1829 was the year that the priesthood, or power of God, was given to the Church’s first prophet, Joseph Smith. While some history suggests that Smith passed the priesthood to male Church members of different races, the subsequent leader of the Church, Brigham Young, announced that such would not be given to men of black African descent in 1852.
It wasn’t until 1978 that the ban was lifted, but the controversy over why the restriction was instituted in the first place has long been a hot-button issue for the Salt Lake City-based religion.
The recording of Wilcox’s statement was widely circulated on Twitter and other platforms, with many decrying the remarks as an example of institutional racism and a poor excuse for an unsavory portion of Church history.
In response to an inquiry from ABC4.com late on Monday night, the Church referred to a Facebook post by Wilcox, in which he stated his regret for the address.
“My dear friends, I made a serious mistake last night, and I am truly sorry. The illustration I attempted to use about the timing of the revelation on the priesthood for Black members was wrong. I’ve reviewed what I said and I recognize that what I hoped to express about trusting God’s timing did NOT come through as I intended. To those I offended, especially my dear Black friends, I offer my sincere apologies, and ask for your forgiveness. I am committed to do better.”
BYU released a statement on Twitter saying:
“We are deeply concerned with the words recently used by Dr. Brad Wilcox. We appreciate his sincere apology & believe he is committed to learn from this experience. BYU remains committed to upholding President Nelson’s charge to root out racism in our institutions. We are carrying out the guiding principles outlined by President Worthen in evaluating and implementing the recommendations provided by the Committee on Race, Equity and Belonging, including the creation of a new Office of Belonging.”
In addition to his duties with the Church’s ecclesiastical leadership, Wilcox is also a professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University. He was placed in his role in the Young Men Presidency during the April 2020 session of General Conference.