Pulling from the Archives, the revelation on the Priesthood

So as we approach the thirtieth anniversary of the priesthood revelation I thought I would share excerpts from a few of the documents I found in the fall while researching for an essay I wrote on the topic.  As well it hopefully will be meaningful to those visiting this site for the first time.  (see Introduction, Part I, Part II and Part III of the essay.)

This is the Associated Press article released on Saturday June 10, 1978 follows this post in its entirety. I found it on the front page of The Daily Leader newspaper from Pontiac, Illinois.

Mormons cite divine revelation in dropping restrictions against blacks

 SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Citing a new revelation from God, the Mormon Church has dropped its restriction against allowing black men into the inner circles of church membership. It was the most significant change in church doctrine since polygamy was discontinued in 1890.

In announcing the change Friday, the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the revelation came after many hours of “supplicating the Lord for divine guidance.”

Church officials declined to elaborate on the revelation itself or its implications. They did not say who received it or how it was given.

Douglas Wallace, a Vancouver, Wash., attorney who was excommunicated from the church in 1976 after he performed an unauthorized ordination of a black man, called it a “revelation of convenience just as the decision to stop polygamy was politically inspired.”

Wallace said church leaders would “do a service to mankind if they would admit their error instead of blaming it on God.”

The ban prevented blacks from entering the church’s priesthood — a broad category of membership that includes most male members age 12 and older who are active in church activities and deemed “worthy” by church leaders.

Church leaders are chosen from among the priesthood. The ban that had kept blacks at a lower level of membership had led to demonstrations, excommunications, lawsuits and denial of a planned Mormon mission to Nigeria.

The church still bars women of all races from the priesthood, saying they receive its blessings through male family members.

Church members rarely discussed the black ban in meetings, although liberal publications lacking official church sanction dealt with it, often urging change.

Historians say at least one black Mormon, Elijah Able, attained the priesthood in the early days of the 148-year-old church. But the church has officially said the ban was sanctioned by every church head since founder Joseph Smith.

The change was anticipated for decades by a small number of faithful black Mormons. The 4 million-member church has no estimate of its black membership.

“It’s the most important thing that’s happened to me in my life,” said James Dawson, a black Mormon who sings in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and works in the church headquarters mailroom.

Dawson and several co-workers, all white, wept as they learned of the change.

“It’s a momentous day, a great day we’ve lived through today,” said church spokesman Jerry Cahill.
He said the change leaves the church with no racial restrictions in its doctrine. Interracial marriage, frowned upon by some church leaders, has not been officially banned, he said.

Cahill said church leaders received calls from throughout the church as news of the change spread. “It’s all been favorable. Some have broken down and cried, with approbation,” he said.

The announcement came in a letter dated Thursday but released Friday by church President Spencer W. Kimball and his counselors, N. Eldon Tanner and Marion G. Romney, who, comprise the First Presidency.
It noted that previous church leaders had promised that sometime “all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood,” adding that church leaders had prayed to God about the matter.

“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,”the letter said.

By not being members of the priesthood, blacks previously were denied participation in sacred
temple ordinances considered essential for eternal exaltation.

They include marriage and baptism ceremonies and the symbolic sealing together of family members, both living and dead. Mormons believe family ties extend beyond death’.


2 Responses to Pulling from the Archives, the revelation on the Priesthood

  1. Very nice. I think we have a tendency to rewrite history, even our own personal history, in our memories, about what was said and where we were and what the context was. It’s disorienting to realize I’m old enough to remember an historic event that needs the reality check of a contemporary document like this AP report. Thanks for dredging it up.

  2. Jon W says:

    Hey no problem Ardis. I am going to put up a few more in the next couple of days I think they do a great job in collecting events. And they are generally an outsiders point of view so you kind of see a different side.

    It is fascinating to see that these reports seem to have a better grasp of the church than they do 30 years later when reporting on Romney. Which of course begs many questions on the effect of the internet on journalism.

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