SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (KUTV) — When Latter-day Saint leader and Brigham Young University professor Brad Wilcox apologized Monday for controversial comments about race, he was specifically referring to the day before when he spoke at a fireside for youth in Alpine, Utah.
But two additional YouTube videos show Wilcox made nearly identical comments at other similar gatherings.
One video, which appears to be shot on a phone, shows Wilcox giving a speech to youth in the Lilburn, Georgia stake (congregation) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on January 18, 2020. The video was uploaded to YouTube May 8 of that year.
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Wilcox was discussing a previous church ban on Black people receiving the priesthood, which was lifted in 1978.
“I don’t mean to be a little over-simplistic, but sometimes I just think that we make things too complicated,” Wilcox said. “Why didn’t the Blacks get the priesthood until 1978? What’s up with that, Brother Wilcox? What, Latter-day Saints were prejudiced? What, [then-church president] Brigham Young was a jerk? I mean, you’ll hear a lot of things. But maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Maybe instead of asking why didn’t the Blacks get the priesthood until ’78, we should be asking why didn’t everybody else get it before 1829? I mean, why did they have to wait until 1829 to have the priesthood restored?”
Those remarks came several months before Wilcox assumed a position as second counselor in the Young Men general presidency of the Salt Lake City-based church. But yet another video shows him making the same comments to another audience at a meetinghouse. While there are no details about the location or date of that event, some people in the video are shown wearing face masks, suggesting it was during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wilcox has held his church position since April 2020.
"Why didn't the Blacks get the priesthood until 1978? Why didn't the whites get the priesthood until 1829?" Wilcox is seen saying, which is exactly what he said Sunday in Alpine for which he has been widely criticized, including by BYU where he is an associate professor of ancient scripture.
During that most recent event on Sunday, Wilcox said, “How come the Blacks didn't get the priesthood until 1978?...Maybe we’re asking the wrong question. 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?'"
In the year 1829, according to Latter-day Saint teachings, the priesthood was given to church founder Joseph Smith. The church was organized a year later. The ban on people of "black African descent" receiving the priesthood was instituted in 1852.
Wilcox apologized Monday, saying he had made a “serious mistake last night” and committed to do better.
“To those I offended, especially my dear Black friends, I offer my sincere apologies, and ask for your forgiveness,” Wilcox wrote on Facebook.
BYU weighed in the next day, tweeting they were “deeply concerned with the words recently used” by Wilcox but appreciated his apology. Asked Wednesday about the second YouTube video, a BYU spokesperson said the university's tweets “include our full statement on this matter.”
Wilcox did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday morning from KUTV 2News about his additional remarks. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not commented so far on the controversy.
Under current church president Russell M. Nelson, the faith has made efforts to strengthen ties with African Americans, including announcing joint initiatives in 2018 with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Nelson spoke at the NAACP national convention in Detroit in 2019.