When you take selected quotes of Brigham Young out of context, he sounds like a terrible, terrible man.
When you read the full sermons, and put the words together in context of his day and age, he comes across as a man who could be comfortable in our day and age.
Read this, and tell me Brigham Young was a racist.
To summarize: When Brigham Young said death was God’s punishment for whites marrying blacks, he wasn’t talking about marriage at all, but white people of the LDS church who rape their slave women. Don’t you agree that the punishment of death for raping your slave is just and fair, when the man is a man who has sworn solemn covenants with God to build his kingdom and represent the Savior? Maybe a bit extreme, but not in that day and age. Certainly spiritual death is the natural result, a death far worse than anything any mortal can hope to inflict on another.
The actual legal punishment was imprisonment up to 3 years, and a fine from $500-$1000. Not only that, but if you abused your slave, the slave was immediately freed. And not only that, but if you set foot in Mormon country, your slave would only remain your slave if he/she chose to. Let me just say that not too many slaveowners would dare tread in Mormon country. It wasn’t exactly a hotspot for the slave trade. I doubt even after the Dred Scott decision and before the Civil War that southerners felt comfortable treading about in Mormon country.
So was Brigham Young a racist? According to our standards, that would be a fair name. Compared to you and I, he would appear racist. However, can you name anyone in his day and age who would be considered less racist than him? Neither can I. And if you took someone exactly like Brigham Young in spirit and thought, what would they be like today?
Folks, you don’t have to be scared of defending the LDS prophets. They were right, and when they were wrong, they were still more right than everyone else in their day. I can’t think of a better church with a more honorable history than ours. Yes, as a church, our attitudes and behaviors have changed, mostly for the better, and in many ways, we’ll always be at the forefront of positive social change just as we were in 1850. Yes, some of our ideas and culture will change, out of necessity, because we are still far from perfect.
But we have absolutely no reason to be ashamed of any of our prophets, from Joseph Smith to Thomas S. Monson. Let the world rail against them, in the end, we will be smelling of roses while they will suffer under the weight of their error.
Which is one reason why I am hoping and praying people attack the LDS church in an attempt to stop Mitt Romney from getting elected. When people hear about these wild accusations, and investigate them, they are going to learn more about the most wonderful church on the face of the earth today, and many will probably join.
The worst thing that could happen is people ignore the LDS church altogether, and lump us in with Catholics and Evangelicals. That would do far more harm than good to our cause.