(The Mormon Tabernacle Choir of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints sings during the fourth session of the 181st Annual General Conference of the church in Salt Lake City, Utah, April 3, 2011. REUTERS/George Frey )

Thirty-five years after lifting a ban on blacks entering the priesthood, the Mormon church has offered an explanation for a practice that was in place for more than 100 years, saying it was rooted in the racism of the times.

A church-produced essay, “Race and the Priesthood,” ties the ban to an 1852 speech by Brigham Young, the faith’s second president, who led the church to Utah, and distances the modern Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the policy.

“The justifications for restrictions echoed the widespread ideas about racial inferiority that had been used to argue for the legalization of black ‘servitude,’” reads the essay, part of a series aimed at giving Mormons more context for understanding various aspects of church history, practices and doctrine.

“Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form,” the essay says.