June 1, 2010

Remembering June 1978

On June 8, 1978 a revelation was announced to the world by press release:

"He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows there from, including the blessings of the temple. Accordingly, all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color" (Official Declaration—2).

I was raised in the Church post-1978 and I can't pinpoint the time I first learned that the priesthood had been restricted from blacks of African descent. The issue became acute during my mission while serving in the predominantly black area of inner city Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I've since wondered what it must have felt like to hear that announcement. How did people hear about it? Where were they? What did they feel? I've been asking people to send me their stories.

"Remembering June 1978" is a short series intended to commemorate the lifting of the priesthood restriction. Throughout the month I'll post experiences from Margaret Blair Young, Greg Prince, Terryl Givens, Darius Gray, and others. If you have a story to share, send it to me at lifeongoldplates (at) yahoo (dot) com. Or feel free to post experiences in the comments section.


Michael R. Ash

Edward L. Kimball

Ron Romig

Darius Gray

Gregory A. Prince

Margaret Blair Young


Damien said...

It must have been a great day and many times I have wondered why it ever was, but then after researching about the founding fathers I found reasoning that never would have crossed my mind.

George Washington, who was a slave owner, and many others of their time were deeply troubled by the practice, but they knew that due to the social climates of the day to state such would have ruined everything that needed to be done in order to abolish the practice. Could great people or organizations at times continue an act that they themselves wish to not participate in for the sake of that practice to be abolished or finally recognized as wrong? And while the church did not act until several years after the civil rights movement had made great strides, perhaps doing so during the height of the movement would only have served to show that the church heeded to pressure and not because the leaders and members knew for a fact that racism in any form is wrong.

I am very interested to see what other comments and posts have to offer on this interesting and often misunderstood portion of our church's history.

Jeremy said...

I've done a sizeable amount of research into this topic and can't definitively give a reason "why" this practice was instituted. As known by anyone who has looked into it, there are a myraid of reasons articulated by well known scholars and even general authorities. But, I'm not sure anyone really knows for sure why things played out as they did with the priesthood. Instead, I'm afraid that this is one of those things we must take on faith, trusting that the Lord was always in control.

My father told me that neighbors on both sides of his house in SLC left the Church shortly after the 1978 announcement. It apparently affected most members to some extent.

I am Chree-uz said...

I very much like Damien's comment. My personal opinion on this subject has been linked with that idea for some time. For the church to grow as much as it needed to, it was probably a semi-dangerous move to have allowed it from the start, not because black individuals weren't ready, but because WHITE people and the unfortunate cultural biases of the time were not ready yet. Not to say white people in general were racist, but the social climate was white biased for a long time. Just like Jeremy said at the end of his comment, even some member STILL weren't ready. If it had been earlier, perhaps the divided opinions would have been too great.
In any case, its a great point in time to get stories from those that lived it.

Clean Cut said...

"Trusting that the Lord was always in control"

Sure. The Lord is ultimately "in control". But that doesn't address the question of how much control He was exercising over His human servants, or how controlled they were when the ban was first instituted.

Clean Cut said...

I'm very much looking forward to this series.

Kevin Barney said...

Here's my account:


BHodges said...

Thanks, Kevin, yours isn't so "inspirational" perhaps, but adds some interesting texture to the different reactions.

Anthony E. Larson said...

My wife and I had just attended a friend's marriage in the Salt Lake temple. As we turned onto the freeway to leave SLC, the newscaster on the radio read the declaration verbatim, which contained the added statement that was later dropped from the formal document, "By this we may know we are approaching the end of time." No sooner had he finished than the Spirit forcefully told me this was true, and the tears began streaming down my face, uncontrollably -- inconveniently because I was trying to merge with freeway traffic at the time!

Pedro Olavarria said...

I don't have much of a story perse. I was born in 1980. BUT my family was baptized by Kieth Hamilton , the executive producer of Margaret young's stage play "I Am Jane", during his mission in Puerto Rico.

Reason said...

Does not good critical thinking say that emotion is not a valid metric for establishing truth, as it leaves us more open to accepting false claims? Does crying after hearing something on the radio give what you heard more legitimacy if you had not felt something about it?

Do you think that if a God was communicating with Joseph Smith telling him to institute the very controversial practice of polygamy in that day, do you think that same being would have any qualms about also instituting basic civil liberties instead of waiting for the correct social and political climate? Something to think on.

BHodges said...

The series is finished, see Margaret's post.

Chris said...

Great idea for a series, Blair! I really enjoyed reading these.

BHodges said...

Thanks for the comments, Chris :)

BHodges said...

Thanks to everyone who participated in the series.

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