Priesthood revelation – from my personal files

So as I said yesterday I was going to continue to publish files from the Priesthood revelation as we come close to the anniversary.  This article is from the Galveston Texas Daily News.  This article is dated July 13 so over a month after the announcement but I think these are being found in the religious section of these papers. 

This article, once again from a journalist, non-Mormon, point of view recounts the ban and the history of it.  I think it is interesting to see their take on it.  So here is the article from United Press International (UPI):

 Mormons Resolve Integration Controversy
Galveston Daily News
Thursday July 13, 1978
Page 46

SALT LAKE CITY (UPI) — A “revelation” from God admitting black men to the Mormon priesthood has resolved a controversy that has troubled the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since it was founded in 1830.

It has also cleared the way for the rapidly growing and uniquely American church to become a worldwide religion instead of a sect headquartered in the Rocky Mountains
Spencer Kimball, the 83- year-old Mormon “prophet, seer and revelator,” sent a shock wave through the 4-million-member church June 9 when he announced that the Lord had answered his “long and earnest” prayers and revealed that all worthy males “may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color.”

Telephones rang off the hooks at church headquarters as members called to ask if the news was true. Black leaders and President Carter praised Kimball.

Historians called it the most significant change in Mormon thinking since the end of polygamy in 1890.

The announcement elevated blacks to equal status with Mormon men of all other races who receive the lay priesthood at age 12. Without the priesthood, the estimated 1,000 black Mormons had been denied full participation in the church. They were excluded from most leadership roles and not permitted to take part in sacred temple rites including the “sealing” of marriages for eternity.

Two days after the announcement Joseph Freeman Jr., a black telephone operator living in Granger, Utah, was ordained as an elder. But Freeman was not the first black to receive the priesthood. Historians have found evidence that several blacks were ordained in the decade after the church was founded by Joseph Smith in Palmyra, N.Y.

The most famous of these, was Elijah Abel, an undertaker in the Mormon settlement of Nauvoo, Ill., who was ordained in 1836. Another black priest was Walker Lewis, a barber in Lowell, Mass., who was ordained by William Smith, a younger brother of Joseph.

As justification for black exclusion, church elders historically have cited a passage in the Book of Abraham — a Mormon scripture which Smith claimed to have translated from Egyptian papyri.

The passage prohibits the lineage of Ham, the accursed son of Noah, from holding the priesthood.

Early Mormon leaders also taught that the descendants of Ham and his wife Egyptus were people who in
a pre-existence had vacillated between supporting Christ and Lucifer and were marked with a dark skin.

Since the curse was tied\to biblical genealogy, the Mormons have applied the priesthood exclusion only to men of African lineage. As a result, some Polynesian men with skin much darker than American Negroes have been ordained without question. American Indians and orientals have never ‘been excluded.

In recent years, however, church leaders have shied away from any doctrinal basis for the exclusion, claiming that only God knew the reason.

The black issue has flared numerous times in recent years.

Black athletes refused to play teams from Mormon owned Brigham Young University. The NAACP sued the Boy Scouts of America because the organization permitted the church to operate a scouting program which excluded black youngsters from troop leadership positions.

Presidential candidates George Romney and Morris Udall, both raised as Mormons, were attacked by black leaders because of their ties with the church.

But perhaps the most serious problems caused by the policy arose in the church’s aggressive missionary program in foreign countries. The Mormons have highly organized missions in the South Pacific and in Central and South America where many people have mixed racial backgrounds, including a black African heritage.

As early as the 1930s, church leaders began discovering that some converts in Hawaii and New Zealand were one eighth black. In some cases their genealogy came to light after they had been given the priesthood and performed ordinances for other church members.

Rapid growth of the church in recent years has accentuated the problem. Kimball’s terse four paragraph statement announcing the revelation made no mention of the civil rights protests.

Dr. Sterling McMurrin, former U.S. Commissioner of Education, and a respected Mormon scholar, said the revelation was the final step in a gradual trend within the church during the past three decades to liberate itself from
regionalism, then nationalism and finally racism.

“It is the normal development of the moral conscience of the church leadership,” said McMurrin a long-term critic of the black policy.”It represents a kind of coming of age for the church morally – in the broad moral sense of the church’s outlook on the world and humanity.”


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