Before I get started, I would like to point out that I am not teaching or advocating doctrines that are contrary to the doctrines of the Church. I am simply presenting the facts, and you can take them how you will. I strongly condemn falsehoods and speaking ill of the Lord’s anointed and believe those who do will receive their own reward. I am only showing that there is more to the priesthood ban than what is presented on the Race and the Priesthood essay on LDS.org.
The essay seems to paint Brigham Young as a racist, white man effected by the culture of his time. As such, the priesthood restriction on the negro is claimed to have originated with him. Church members often believe the idea that God is not the author of such a ban and that there is no evidence that Joseph Smith taught such a doctrine even though the essay does not make these claims.
In this article, I am going to do four things. First, I am going to show that neither the church nor any of its leaders have ever claimed that the ban was NOT from God. Second, I am going to show that the church and its leaders in the past have taught that some of the explanations and reasons for the ban are doctrine. (Yes, we know that the essay says the church “disavows [these] theories” and that “none of these explanations [are] accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church.” We know. We are not contradicting that. We are saying that these “theories” and “explanations” WERE taught as doctrine.) Third, I am going to show that the scriptures talk about some kind of curse as pertaining to the Priesthood, marriage, temple, etc. Fourth, I am going to debunk the myth that the ban originated with Brigham Young by showing that the Prophet Joseph Smith taught the doctrine.
Priesthood Ban is from God
Nowhere that I am aware of has the church nor any of its leaders ever said that the ban was not from God. FAIR states that “Brigham Young did not present a specific revelation on priesthood or temple restrictions he imposed.” While true, this comment is pointless and only attempts to deceive people into believing that a “specific revelation” is required in order to proclaim truth. I ask where is the “specific revelation” from Joseph Smith on the endowment, Heavenly Mother, God once being a man, etc? Was the fact that there are three kingdoms of glory not true until Joseph presented D&C 76? Such reasoning is laughable.
FAIR goes on to say that “the Saints were externally pressured to adopt racial policies as a political compromise.” However, not only do they not provide any evidence of this idea, but the fact that the whole 1978 revelation was built entirely on the premise that the priesthood ban did originate with God is not even taken into account. Let’s explain.
The 1978 letter read in General Conference says that “a revelation had been received by President Spencer W. Kimball extending priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church.” But wait a second, if the priesthood ban wasn’t from God, in His eyes, priesthood and temple blessings would have already been extended to all worthy males. The only reason they were being held back would have been because “political compromise” and the false cultural ideas of Brigham and others. It doesn’t really make sense for God to give a revelation extending the priesthood to blacks, when, in His mind, it was already extended to them in the first place. It would make more sense if God had been like, “Yeah… that was just a false tradition.” Rather, the letter states that God said the time had come for them to have it. If it was a false notion, wasn’t that time already here?
The letter also says that the brethren were “aware of the promises made by the prophets” that one day blacks would receive the priesthood. These “promises made by the prophets” were also based on the idea and in the context of the ban originating with God. So, if the ban was based on cultural falsehoods, that would mean these promises were based on lies. It’s like Karl Marx promising that one day there is going to be a Utopia (or Zion) on Earth. At first glance, you are like “yeah, that’s true.” But if you find out that his promise is based on the world accepting and implementing communism, when Zion actually is established, does that mean his promise came true? It’s the same principle.
So, then you ask yourself, “why were these prophets and apostles pleading ‘long and earnestly’ with God and asking if the time had come to fulfill the promises that were based on false notions?” It would have made more sense to just do what FAIR does and say that the ban was based on a false cultural and scriptural understanding. However, right now the church doesn’t even claim that.
Reasons and Explanations Taught as Doctrine
The essay states that,
“Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church.”
This, however, has not always been the case. Let’s explain.
When we listen to General Conference, when we have General Authorities come to our stake conferences, when we go to devotionals where a General Authority is speaking, and numerous other circumstances, how do we take their words? Do we take what they say as their opinion? Or do we take what they say as doctrine? We make the claim that we, as members, take it as doctrine. So, when church leaders like Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, etc. do the same thing, why can’t we take what they say as doctrine? Brigham Young and others taught on countless occasions the reasons for the ban. Those quotes are readily available and don’t need to be shown here.
There is a group on YouTube that talks about Mormonism, the church, etc. In one of their videos about this topic, one of the hosts says that we don’t need to follow the words of the prophets in regards to their opinions. And, yeah, I get that. If Joseph Smith was like, “Blue is the best color,” or if President Nelson said, “The Utah Jazz should sign Michael Jordan,” yeah, that is their opinion. Obviously, we don’t have to agree with what they said. However, when they go up to the pulpit and teach us something and say, “This is the truth,” or, “This is the law of God,” or, “This is doctrine,” they are not merely passing off their opinions. They are teaching us doctrine.
Let’s take it a step further. Let’s say that you have a question about the priesthood ban. Let’s say that you write a letter to the First Presidency and ask them for clarification. Let’s say they respond and give you an answer to your question. How are you going to take their answer? Are you going to say that it is just their opinion? Or are you going to take it as doctrine? What if something like this actually happened? Well, it has. Numerous times.
In 1912, Milton H. Knudson wrote a letter to the First Presidency asking,
“Is it a fact that a Negro cannot receive the priesthood, and if so, what is the reason?” 
The First Presidency answered his question by referring to the scriptures.
“You are referred to the Pearl of Great Price, Book of Abraham, Chapter 1, verses 26 and 27, going to show that the seed of Ham was cursed as pertaining to the priesthood; and that by reason of this curse they have no right to it.” 
Later that year, Ben E. Rich sent his correspondence with J. Wesley Harmon, a black member of the church, to the First Presidency. The First Presidency read it and sent a letter to Ben E. Rich. In the letter, the First Presidency states that one of the reasons for the restriction is because of one’s lineage.
“The subject of Brother Harmon’s letters and your reply thereto involve a principle which he does not seem to fully comprehend, and which could not be properly taken up without some care and consideration for him and the race to which he belongs.
The revelations received in these latter times, not only designate certain lines of lineage in which the authority of the Priesthood is specially bestowed, but shows how the race to which our B[r]other Harmon belongs is excluded from the offices of the Priesthood. The seed of Ham, through Cainan, formed the origin of the negro race, and the Pearl of Great Price gives particulars on this point that are very pertinent to the subject. (See Book of Abraham 1:21, 27) These texts show that while men of the negro race may be blessed of the Lord both temporally and spiritually, with earthly power, with wisdom, with salvation through the Gospel [of] Jesus Christ, and in these and other similar respects participate in the great redemption brought about by the Savior of mankind, yet they are not eligible to the Priesthood, which belongs particularly to the seed of Abraham.” 
If that is not enough to convince you that the reasons for the ban were taught as doctrine, consider what happened in 1949. After a discussion with the Quorum of the Twelve, the First Presidency issued a statement outlining the position of the church in regards to the negro . Not only did they say that the ban itself was a direct commandment from God, but they also gave reasons for it. The statement in full is below.
The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: “Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.”
President Wilford Woodruff made the following statement: “The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have.”
The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the Church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintain their first estate; and that the worth of the privilege is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes. 
In 1961, the Secretary of the Interior was an LDS man named Stewart Udall. He sent a letter to the two counselors in the First Presidency, Presidents Henry D. Moyle and Hugh B. Brown, stating that he had been getting “inquiries and comments which from time to time have been directed to [him] personally by leaders who occupy positions of prominence in our Nation’s Capital” about racial issues. He says,
“It is my judgment that unless something is done to clarify the official position of the Church these sentiments will become more intense and vocal, and sooner or later I fear they will become the subject of widespread public comment and controversy.” 
Understand that this is an official United States government representative who has been getting questions from high government officials about the stance of his church and that he thinks it needs to be clarified. How did the First Presidency respond? By quoting the entire 1949 statement where it explains the position and doctrine of the church and gives the reasons for it.
In 1969, the First Presidency issued yet another statement. This one quotes President David O. McKay saying that one of the reasons for the ban has something to do with the pre-existence.
“The seeming discrimination by the Church toward the Negro is not something which originated with man; but goes back into the beginning with God….
Revelation assures us that this plan antedates man’s mortal existence, extending back to man’s pre-existent state.” 
These are just a few examples of the church and its leaders giving reasons and explanations for the ban and passing off those reasons as doctrine. (If a First Presidency statement after a discussion with the Quorum of the Twelve isn’t to be considered doctrine, what is?) So, even though the church currently disavows these “theories,” it is blatantly clear that they once were taught as doctrine. To say otherwise is a straight up lie.
The Ban in the Scriptures
The idea that the priesthood ban originated with Brigham Young or that the scriptures or Joseph Smith didn’t talk about it is false. The essay says,
“In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood.”
This is true. However, this is not when the doctrine was first discussed. Saying it is would be a lie. It would be the equivalent of saying that when Orson Pratt publicly announced plural marriage the same year that this was the first time plural marriage was discussed. It’s simply not true. There are plenty of scriptural arguments and scriptures that can at least be interpreted to be talking about such things. I will show a few of them.
We know from the scriptures that there are some men who were the great and noble ones. We know that 1/3 of Heavenly Father’s children were cast out of heaven because they followed Lucifer. We know that the noble and great ones are the rulers of the Church. We also know that those who followed Lucifer were not allowed to receive a body. From this, it would be logical to assume that in between these two extremes there would be every other level and kind of spirits. Just like in between those who are exalted and those who are confined to outer darkness, there are those in the Telestial Kingdom, those in the Terrestrial Kingdom, and those in the lower degrees of the Celestial Kingdom. To say that one or more of these pre-mortal levels carries the penalty of not being able to hold the priesthood is not that far of a stretch.
Another argument is that just how our rewards or punishments in the next life are effected by our actions in this life, likewise, our actions in our previous life effect our rewards and punishments in this life. This is exactly what the First Presidency says in the 1949 statement.
Abraham chapter 1 says that through Ham “sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land” (v. 24). It talks about how Pharaoh was a descendant of Ham (v. 25). It says that he was cursed “as pertaining to the Priesthood” (v. 26) and that he was from the “lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood” (v. 27).
Moses chapter 7 explains that the “children of Canaan” were black and that they were “despised among all people” (v. 8). Enoch did not preach to the people of Canaan (v. 12). It says that Enoch saw that the descendants of Adam did not mix with the descendants of Cain, that “the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them” (v. 22).
The last verse in the second to last book of the Old Testament, Zechariah 14:21, mentions that in the Millennium, a group called the Canaanites won’t be “in the house of the Lord of hosts.” Genesis 24:3, Genesis 28:1, and Deuteronomy 7:3 all speak about not marrying “Canaanites.”
From these scriptures and others not mentioned, it would not be totally crazy to say that the idea of a Priesthood curse is backed by scripture. In fact, it would be crazier to say that the idea of a Priesthood curse is not backed by scripture.
Debunking the Brigham Young Myth
The church essay says,
“There is no reliable evidence that any black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime.”
This statement is often very misinterpreted. First, it does not say that there is no evidence that black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. It only says that they don’t consider it “reliable.” Second, it does not say that Joseph Smith never had any teachings that can be understood to mean that negroes could not hold the priesthood. On the contrary, there is evidence that he denied black men the priesthood and that he taught that they were cursed.
Joseph referred to the “negroes” as “descendants of Ham”  and the “sons of Cain” . He said that a “curse remains upon the posterity of Canaan until the present day,”  and if he “had anything to do with the negro, [he] would confine them by strict law to their own species” .
In 1879, Zebedee Coltrin claimed that Joseph Smith told him, “The Spirit of the Lord saith the Negro has no right nor cannot hold the Priesthood,” and that he had “heard him [Joseph] say in public that no person having the least particle of Negro blood can hold the Priesthood.” 
In that same meeting with Zebedee Coltrin, Abraham O. Smoot said that he asked the Prophet, “What should be done with the Negro in the South?” The Prophet answered by saying, “[He] could baptize them by consent of their masters, but not to confer the Priesthood upon them.” 
President George Q. Cannon, in 1895, stated that “the Prophet Joseph [Smith] taught this doctrine: That the seed of Cain could not receive the Priesthood nor act in any of the offices of the priesthood.” 
In August 1900, President Cannon remarked that President John Taylor claimed to have been taught by the Prophet that “no man tainted with negro blood was eligible to the Priesthood.” 
On February 9, 1945, in a letter to Graham H. Doxey, the First Presidency acknowledged Joseph’s teachings in George Q. Cannon’s 1895 statement. 
Two years later the First Presidency also informed Utah State Professor Lowry Nelson that the ban was taught by Joseph.
“From the days of the Prophet Joseph even until now, it has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by any of the Church leaders, that the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel.” 
A very interesting article appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune in 1970. It tells of an account of Elijah Able himself stating that he had had his priesthood withdrawn from him by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
“The Prophet Joseph Smith was commanded by God to withdraw the priesthood from Elijah Able, and revoke the ordination. … Although there is no official Church record as to the revocation, Elijah Able affirmed the fact to father, Thomas A. Shreeve, when both were living in the Salt Lake 10th Ward, during 1872-1877. At the time, Bro. Able told young Thomas, who baptized Able’s grandchildren that the Prophet Joseph ‘came to him with tears in his eyes one day, and told him [Able] that he had been commanded by the Lord to withdraw the holy priesthood from him.’
Patriarch Shreeve, testified many times before his death in 1931, of the facts in the case, and of his close relationship with Brother Able. As of this date there are still living three members of the Shreeve family, who know of the facts to which their father testified Elijah Able told him.” 
An additional point to this argument is the fact that none of Joseph’s closest associates have ever claimed that Joseph did not preach the priesthood ban (see next paragraph). The only ones that do claim this are historians. However, the evidence apparently shows otherwise. We can conclude that either Joseph taught the doctrine or there was a conspiracy among church leaders to promote falsehoods. It doesn’t matter if they were “effected by their culture” or not, if it’s false, it’s false.
Brigham Young proclaimed his controversial teachings about the nature of God the same year he told the Utah legislature about the priesthood ban. Later, he claimed to have been taught this doctrine (the nature of God) by Joseph Smith. It is interesting to note that Heber C. Kimball, John Taylor, George Q. Cannon, Lorenzo Snow, Wilford Woodruff, William Clayton, Benjamin F. Johnson, Eliza R. Snow, and a host of others who were intimately acquainted with the Prophet did not deny that Joseph taught the doctrine. The only one who did was Orson Pratt. It can be seen from studying the history that Orson was not afraid to say what he thought. He would get into very heated discussions with the Quorum of the Twelve about it. However, why would Orson – one of, if not the strongest-willed Apostle at the time – not take a similar stance about the priesthood ban if Joseph did not teach it? Why have none of Joseph’s closest associates ever claimed that he didn’t teach the priesthood ban? In fact, it was taught that Joseph instituted the doctrine clear up to at least 1969. 
It is obvious from the scriptures and the evidence presented here (there is a lot more than what we have shared) that 1) the church has never taught that the priesthood ban was not from God, and, consequently, anybody who teaches otherwise is teaching false doctrine, 2) even though the reasons for the ban have been disavowed by the church as “theories,” they were once taught as doctrine, 3) the scriptures clearly teach about some kind of curse and that the Canaanites are involved with this curse, and 4) the ban did not originate with Brigham Young, but was, in fact, taught by Joseph Smith.
Update – 7/6/2019
Below are some more interesting items of note further proving that Brigham Young did not originate the doctrine.
The earliest recorded time of Brigham Young speaking about this doctrine was during a meeting in 1849 when newly called apostle, Lorenzo Snow, asked him about it.
In 1846, Parley P. Pratt leaves for a mission to England. In 1846, William McCary, a black man, is baptized. During the winter of 1846-47, William McCary joins the saints in Winter Quarters and starts claiming strange powers and revelations. In early 1847, William McCary is excommunicated. On April 8, 1847, Parley P. Pratt returns home. On April 14 or 15, 1847, Brigham Young leaves with some of the saints to Salt Lake City. On April 25, 1847, Parley P. Pratt gives a speech and mentions that William McCary “has got the blood of Ham in him which lineage was cursed as regards the Priesthood.”
Some apologetic claims are that Brigham Young originated the doctrine of negro Priesthood denial as a result of the actions of William McCary. Note, from the time Parley returned and Brigham left was 6-7 days. Because Parley was preaching about this doctrine after he returned from his mission, this would mean the doctrine either started before he left on his mission in 1846 or sometime during the time he was gone on his mission, so between late 1846 and April 14-15, 1847, when Brigham Young left for Salt Lake City.
If the latter is the case, that means Brigham Young taught the doctrine to Parley within that 6-7 day time period that the two could have conversed with each other. Apologists have failed to show any evidence of this. If the former is the case, that means Brigham Young originated the doctrine sometime before or during 1846. Apologists have still yet to show any evidence of this.
In fact, Orson Hyde talked about the pre-existence, blacks, lineage, and Priesthood as early as March and April of 1845. Yet, both times Hyde speaks of these ideas, it suggests that an even earlier date is needed to find an exact date for the origination of the doctrine. As he stated that those things were “among the mysteries of the kingdom, and I have told them, not by constraint or by commandment, but by permission.” This would mean that if Brigham Young originated the doctrine, it would have been between Joseph’s death and March 1845. Given the circumstances and everything else Brigham had to figure out and deal with and the fact that apologists have failed to show any evidence of this, this idea hardly seems believable.
 Minutes of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1910-1951, 13 January 1912, pg. 107
 Minutes of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1910-1951, 1 May 1912, pg. 122-124
 Letter from First Presidency to Stewart Udall, 27 September 1961
 Text can be found in numerous places. Still trying to locate the original statement. Earliest sources we have found are the letter from First Presidency to Stewart Udall, 27 September 1961; also in For What Purpose?, President Alvin R. Dyer, Missionary Conference, Oslo, Norway, 18 March 1962; also quoted in letter from Joseph Anderson to Herbert A. Ford, 10 April 1951.
 Letter from the First Presidency dated 15 December 1969, Improvement Era, February 1970, pg 70-71
 History of the Church 1:191
 History of the Church 4:501
 History of the Church 4:446
 History of the Church 5:217
 Journal of L. John Nuttall, May 31st, 1879
 Minutes of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1894-1899, 22 August 1895, pg. 28
 Minutes of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1900-1909, 18 August 1900, pg. 96
 Minutes of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1910-1951, 9 February 1945, pg. 410
 Letter from First Presidency to Lowry Nelson, 17 July 1947
 Caleb A. Shreeve, Sr., The Salt Lake Tribune, “Forum,” 26 October 1970