Warner "William" McCary (c. 1811 – after 1854) was an African American convert to Mormonism who was expelled 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.
He was born as Warner McCary in Natchez, Mississippi around 1810 or 1811 to an African American slave named Francis, or "Franky", and her master, a white carpenter from Pennsylvania named James McCary. They also had two older children, Kitty and Robert. 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. In 1836 he 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 Native American woman, Laah Ceil, whose mother was Delaware Indian and father was Mohawk.
In his youth, Warner McCary had begun using other names, including James Warner, William McCary, and Cary. 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. According to Connell O'Donovan, McCary used these alternate identities "to both reinvent and reimagine his unhappy childhood, and to make his way and a living as an escaped slave in a white-dominant world."
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. During this time he briefly joined with Mormonism where he sparked racial controversy.
Conversion to Mormonism
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. In Council Bluffs, Iowa in February 1846, he was baptized into the LDS Church by Apostle Orson Hyde, and he probably was ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood. 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, he joined the Latter Day Saints in Winter Quarters, Nebraska.
Prophet and excommunication
While in Winter Quarters, McCary began claiming powers of prophesy and transfiguration — he claimed to have the power to appear as various biblical and Book of Mormon figures. In early 1847, McCary was excommunicated from the church for apostasy and expelled from Winter Quarters. Shortly after his expulsion, Hyde preached a sermon against McCary and his claims.
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.
Effect on LDS Church policy
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" and may have prompted Brigham Young to institute the priesthood and temple ban on black people. A statement from Young to McCary in March 1847 suggested that up until that point, race had nothing to do with priesthood eligibility 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. 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".
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.
- 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
- Polk, Patrick A. (Summer 2009), Journal of Mormon History, 35 (3): 230–234 Missing or empty
- O'Donovan, Connell (March 28, 2009), "'I would confine them to their own species': LDS Historical Rhetoric & Praxis Regarding Marriage Between Whites and Blacks", Sunstone Symposium West, Cupertino, CA, retrieved 2013-02-18
- Bringhurst, Newell G. (1981), Saints, Slaves, and Blacks: The Changing Place of Black People within Mormonism, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press
- Murphy, Larry G.; Melton, J. Gordon; Ward, Gary L. (1993), Encyclopedia of African American Religions, New York: Garland Publishing, pp. 471–472
- 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)
- "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]
- General Minutes, Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church Archives, April 25, 1847[full citation needed]
- Tubbee, Okah (1852). A Sketch of the Life of Okah Tubbee, (Called) William Chubbee, Son of the Head Chief, Mosholeh Tubbee, of the Choctaw Nation of Indians. Toronto: H. Stephens.
- Pulley Hudson, Angela (2015). Real Native Genius: How an Ex-Slave and a White Mormon Became Famous Indians. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.