On my mission, a talk by Alvin R. Dyer (who was a 3rd counselor in the First Presidency under David O. McKay in the late 60's--that's right, 3rd counselor) was making the rounds among the missionaries which caused quite a stir. I even spoke with my mission president about it, which didn't help much. At the get-together I explained that this talk was about how the different races came to be and were preserved through Noah's family after the Great Flood. I also stressed that Mr. Dyer gave this talk to missionaries, and told them to keep the information a secret from investigators. But I forgot the most important (offensive) part of the talk!
Mr. Dyer explains through various passages in the Book of Abraham, that in the pre-existence there were three kingdoms or divisions based on one's faithfulness to god--similar to the three degrees of glory in the afterlife. The lowest division was cast out with Satan and became Sons of Perdition. The other two divisions went to Earth to inhabit bodies and earn their place in Heaven. So far, active Mormons should be with me.
Here is where it gets interesting, as Mr. Dyer explains the primary difference between the first and second divisions on earth and I think it is best if you read the quote verbatim:
"I suppose, and you may often have heard missionaries say it, or have asked the question: "Why is a Negro a Negro?" And you have heard this answer: "They were neither hot nor cold, so the Lord made them Negroes." This of course, is not true. The reason that spirits are born into Negro bodies is that those spirits rejected the Priesthood of God in the pre-existence. This is the reason why you have Negroes upon the earth."
I don't know about you, but to me "rejecting the Priesthood of God" is much stronger than being "neither hot nor cold." They weren't just indecisive; they actively rejected God's Priesthood (which, if you think about it, is kind of absurd since they lived with God and all).
Now, this is not the church's current view, and understandably so. And I have no problem with any church changing their stance on anything. That is their prerogative. The problem I have is the way the church deals with these sorts of quotes. Rather than saying something like "the times, they are a-changing" and pointing out the progress the church has made, they bury them and pretend they didn't happen--at least, until someone corners them. This is why the church has distanced itself from the "Journal of Discourses" (where many of these crazy quotes come from) and many other early church publications, like the "Times and Seasons" newspaper.
I can only speculate as to why they take this approach, but I think it is so they can both preserve a sense of infallibility (authority), as well as protect church members, especially new converts, from tough topics which might challenge one's faith. Generally, this seems to work, or at least it worked before the Internet. But now we see many people stumbling upon these things and they either have to rationalize away the quotes, look for mediocre Mormon apologist responses, or realize the church isn't forthright about its history, causing them to ask more tough questions and possibly leave the church. Hmmm...
On second thought, the Mormon church has the right approach and shouldn't change a thing. (>.>)
And now for a great video of a Mormon Missionary preaching to an African warlord: