William McCary

Warner "William" McCary (c. 1811 – after 1854)[1] was an African American convert to Mormonism who was excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in 1847 for claiming to be a prophet. Some researchers have suggested that McCary's actions led to the LDS Church's subsequent policy of not allowing people of black African descent to hold the priesthood or participate in temple ordinances.[2]


McCary was born as Warner McCary in Natchez, Mississippi, around 1810 or 1811 to an African American slave named Francis, or "Franky". Her master was a white carpenter from Pennsylvania named James McCary. She also had two older children, Kitty and Robert, who may have been James's biological children. Upon James McCary's death around 1813, his will emancipated Franky and the older children but declared Warner and his future offspring to "be held as slaves during all and each of their lives" in the service of his mother and siblings.[1] In 1836, Warner escaped Natchez on a riverboat and went to New Orleans, where he worked at Leeds Foundry until 1840, as well as an occasional musician and cigar vendor. Around this time he married a white Mormon woman, Lucy Stanton Bassett, who claimed to be a Native American woman named Laah Ceil. She claimed her mother was Delaware Indian and father was Mohawk.[1]

In his youth, McCary had begun using other names, including James Warner, William McCary, and Cary.[1] He eventually adopted over a dozen aliases, many of which were Native American, including William Chubbee, William Chubbee King, Julius McCary, William McChubby, Okah Tubee, James Warner, and War'ne'wis Ke'ho'ke Chubbee.

Presenting himself as a Native American, McCary was helped in 1843 by local whites to get a permit as a free person of color in Mississippi. When he left in 1844, he toured various frontier and eastern cities as a musician and lecturer.[1] During this time he briefly joined with Mormonism where he sparked racial controversy.

Conversion to MormonismEdit

McCary arrived in Nauvoo, Illinois, in late 1845. He claimed he was a half-African American and half-Native American named Okah Tubbee and the "lost" son of Choctaw chief Mushulatubbee. McCary was also known as a skilled ventriloquist and musician.[3] In Council Bluffs, Iowa, in February 1846, he was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by apostle Orson Hyde, and he was probably ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood.[3] Around this time, McCary also married Lucy Stanton, a white daughter of Daniel Stanton, a former high councilor and stake president. In the winter of 1846–1847, McCary joined the Latter Day Saints in Winter Quarters, Nebraska.[4]

Prophet and excommunicationEdit

While in Winter Quarters, McCary began claiming powers of prophecy and transfiguration—he claimed to have the power to appear as various biblical and Book of Mormon figures.[4] In early 1847, McCary was excommunicated from the church for apostasy and expelled from Winter Quarters.[3] Shortly after his expulsion, Hyde preached a sermon against McCary and his claims.[4]

McCary settled a short distance away and began attracting some Winter Quarters followers to his own brand of Mormonism. He instituted plural marriage among his followers, and had himself sealed to several white wives in a changed, sealing ceremony that consisted of sex with him and his first wife Lucy.[3][4][5]

Effect on LDS Church policyEdit

McCary's behavior angered many of the Latter Day Saints in Winter Quarters. Researchers have stated that his marriages to his white wives "played an important role in pushing the Mormon leadership into an anti-Black position"[4][5] and may have prompted Brigham Young to institute the priesthood and temple ordinance ban on black people.[3][4][5][6] A statement from Young to McCary in March 1847 suggested that up until that point, race had nothing to do with priesthood eligibility[7][5] and the earliest known statement about blacks being restricted from the priesthood from any Mormon leader was made by apostle Parley P. Pratt a month after McCary was expelled from Winter Quarters.[3] Speaking of McCary, Pratt stated that he "was a black man with the blood of Ham in him which linege was cursed as regards the priesthood".[8]

After Brigham Young instigated the priesthood and temple ban in 1847, the LDS Church generally did not allow men of black African descent to hold the priesthood again until 1978.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e Horn, Patrick E. (2004), "Summary of A Sketch of the Life of Okah Tubbee, (Called) William Chubbee, Son of the Head Chief, Mosholeh Tubbee, of the Choctaw Nation of Indians", Documenting the American South: North American Slave Narratives, University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, retrieved 2013-02-18
  2. ^ Polk, Patrick A. (Summer 2009), "'A Negro Preacher': The Worlds of Elijah Ables" (PDF), Journal of Mormon History, 35 (3): 228–234, archived from the original (PDF) on 18 April 2017
  3. ^ a b c d e f Bringhurst, Newell G. (1981), Saints, Slaves, and Blacks: The Changing Place of Black People within Mormonism, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press
  4. ^ a b c d e f Murphy, Larry G.; Melton, J. Gordon; Ward, Gary L. (1993), Encyclopedia of African American Religions, New York: Garland Publishing, pp. 471–472
  5. ^ a b c d A reason for faith : navigating LDS doctrine & Church history. Hales, Laura H. (Laura Harris). Provo, Utah. 2016. pp. 164–165. ISBN 978-1-944394-01-1. OCLC 933446672.CS1 maint: others (link)
  6. ^ O'Donovan, Connell (2006). "The Mormon Priesthood Ban & Elder Q. Walker Lewis: 'An example for his more whiter brethren to follow'". John Whitmer Historical Association Journal. (Online reprint with author updates)
  7. ^ "Its nothing to do with the blood for [from] one blood has God made all flesh, we have to repent [to] regain what we av lost — we av one of the best Elders an African in Lowell [referring to Walker Lewis ]."
    Brigham Young Papers, Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church Archives, March 26, 1847[full citation needed]
  8. ^ General Minutes, Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church Archives, April 25, 1847[full citation needed]

Further readingEdit