After 35 years, the Mormon Church has spoken out about how it why it finally decided to lift the ban on black people in its priesthood.
The Mormon religion banned black people from its clergy until 1978. The decision why was never fully explained, beyond stating that Mormon church leaders had a "revelation".
In the three decades since the ban was lifted, the Church of Latter Day Saints has struggled to come up with a comprehensive reason for the ban in the first place. The church has not addressed its widely held notion that black people are inferior and that dark skin is a curse.
Questions about racial skeletons in the closet of the Mormon church were raised again last year during the US presidential campaign of Mitt Romney. The Republican candidate was asked to defend his religion over the sensitive issue.
The church has now posted a 2,000 word article on its official website which gives the most comprehensive explanation for the exclusion of black people from its priesthood, but also publicly denounces the policy.
The statement read: "The Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavour or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else.
"Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form."
The Church blames the original ban on an announcement from church president Brigham Young in 1852.
Young announced a policy in 1852 restricting men of black African descent from receiving the priesthood, despite the religion's founder Joseph Smith publicly opposing slavery, according to the statement.
Young made the announcement after being confronted about allowing black people in the clergy by slave owners, it said.
Young apparently gave his assurance that one day black followers would have "all the privaleges" accorded to white people in the church.
Don Harwell, a black Mormon who converted to Mormonism in 1983, called it a great moment.
"History and changes all happen due to time. This is way past due. These are the statements they should have made in 1978, but better late than never."
Margaret Blair Young, a professor at Brigham Young University who made a documentary about black Mormons, described the announcement as a "miracle".
"I'm thrilled," she said. "It went so much further than anything before has done."