In thinking about the recent controversy involving Randy Bott and his justifications for the priesthood ban I thought it would be interesting to look at what materials the Church has to offer on the subject. So I decided to search on for Elijah Abel. It results in a single hit from 2003. Here is the full text that applies from a News of the Church article:

Monument Honors African-American Pioneer

Baptized in 1832, Elijah Abel was one of the earliest members of the Church. He was also a former slave and one of the few African-Americans to join the Church in his day. Brother Abel and his family traveled west with the Saints, and he lived in Salt Lake City until his death in 1884. He was characterized as a true, pure, and spiritual man, and his memory was recently honored with the dedication of a monument at his grave site in a Salt Lake City cemetery.

The monument was created through private efforts, and Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered the dedicatory prayer. “It’s a wonderful thing you’ve done here today,” Elder Ballard told about 200 people gathered for the ceremony. “The Church is pleased.”

Note that the article chooses to omit the fact that he was ordained to the priesthood, and refers to him as Brother Abel, rather than Elder Abel, as would befit a member of the Seventy and a man that became ill on a mission and died upon returning home.

How sad that a conference talk hasn’t been given on the life of this early saint. How strange that there is not an Ensign article on the topic. Is it any wonder people such as Brother Bott cling to their discredited rationalizations when nothing has been offered to fill the void they left?

While I personally would like to see a denunciation of the ban itself, some simple factual information from the Church on the early history of the topic would be a good first step in causing members to reconsider their prejudiced notions.