I received this email from a friend:
I was wondering if you have ever written anything about slavery and would love to know where to find it. If not, what your take on it?
I haven’t written anything.
I think it was wrong because it limited agency and enthroned abuse and control by one human over another.
But 2 Ne. 1: 6 forces us to ask the question of whether slavery was used by the Lord to bring some people to this land who would not otherwise have come. If so, then even though it was an evil institution, it was turned to a purpose God intended to accomplish.
America’s history of slavery presents an interesting question for Mormons because of Lehi’s prophecy. The advent of African slavery in the Americas would come hundreds of years later when Dutch and Spanish slave traders would bring the institution into colonial America. By the time of American Independence, African slavery was woven into the economy of the southern states and economically impossible to eliminate without destroying the south. It took nearly another century before the nation could end the practice. If Lehi’s prophecy is applied to the involuntary relocation of Africans, then Mormons must ask themselves how to understand Lehi’s prophecy: “[T]here shall none come unto this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord.” (2 Ne. 1: 6.)
My first job after law school I worked for a company that built television stations in Nigeria, Africa. One of the employees who traveled to Africa to help construct the facilities was a black engineer from California. After returning from a lengthy assignment, he was overcome with the conditions in Nigeria when contrasted with conditions he and his family enjoyed in California. He had mixed emotions. Although he knew his ancestors were forced to come as slaves to America, his life today was so much better than the lives he saw for the descendants of those left behind. He literally declared: “Thank God for slavery!” If I hadn’t heard him say it I would not have believed that sentiment was possible. To me his reaction was completely unexpected.
The ebb and flow of history shows the obvious immediate results, and later, unanticipated consequences. People are driven by one motivation at one point in time, but generations later their posterity live with the full results. After history unfolds, the earlier reasons may seem crude or even wrong, or they may seem noble and laudable. But life gets to be experienced in the immediacy of the day. We are not permitted to see the long-ranging effects over generations from our acts today. Unless the Lord shows it to us, only later generations will fully appreciate the effects of our choices.