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Special Feature

Readings on Race and Mormonism from BYU Studies
June 5, 2018
Special Feature
Readings on Race and Mormonism from BYU Studies
Author BYU Studies Staff,

Joining the commemoration of the 1978 revelation on LDS priesthood and temple access for people of all races, we recommend the following for your study.

"A Reflection from an African Convert on Official Declaration 2," by Khumbulani D. Mdletshe
Growing up in South Africa, Khumbulani Mdletshe suffered under apartheid. He was interested in religion and was converted by LDS missionaries in 1980. He did not learn about the ban against blacks holding the priesthood until his mission to London in 1985. He explains his shock at finding out the history of the ban while knocking on doors one day and his dismay at the explanation his companion gave. He decided he could not represent a racist church and went to tell his mission president that he was leaving. The president explained that he did not know the reason for the ban, and somehow the Spirit persuaded Elder Mdletshe to stay.

The essay continues with Brother Mdletshe's story of marriage, employment, and Church service, describing his struggles with the history of the ban being resolved by a short but momentous meeting with President Monson.

"A Faithful Band: Moses Mahlangu and the First Soweto Saints," by Richard E. Turley Jr. and Jeffrey G. Cannon
Having found a copy of the Book of Mormon sometime in the 1960s and sought baptism, a small group of black South Africans were denied admission into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints until 1980. Contemporary documents show that beyond the Church's long–standing policy restricting ordination and temple worship for persons of black African descent, leaders' fears of running afoul of local laws and practices in apartheid–era South Africa led to the delay. The group waited for more than a decade, showing exemplary faith, humility, and patience.

"Thirty Years after the "Long-Promised Day": Reflections and Expectations," by Marcus H. Martins
The announcement of the revelation of 1978, which extended the priesthood to all worthy Latter–day Saint men regardless of race, was celebrated as the arrival of a "long-promised day" (Official Declaration 2). Reflecting on the thirtieth anniversary of that revelation, I feel deep gratitude to the Lord for sending me to earth in an age in which I would be allowed to hold the priesthood and work in his vineyard. The blessings and privileges my family and I have enjoyed in the Church in those three decades far exceeded any dreams we might have had prior to June 1978. Note: Thanks to the author, we are offering a Portuguese translation of this article here.

"Brother Wiseman," by Tessa Meyer Santiago
He appeared in our midst suddenly one Sunday morning. Hopped off a double decker bus across the road from Waynes Bakery just as they were pulling the first buns, five cents apiece, from the oven. Although, hopped is not exactly the word. More like he shuffled his little black body across the street and up the seven stairs outside the Mowbray Chapel, corner of Grove and Main, Cape Town, South Africa. Our problem was that he shuffled up those stairs, his three–piece suit folding dove gray around his ankles about two years before the priesthood was restored to all worthy members, and twelve years before apartheid ended.

"Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood," by Edward L. Kimball
Edward L. Kimball discusses the former Mormon policy of restricting Church members of African descent from receiving the priesthood. He examines the traditional and proposed scriptural basis for the policy, its origin and implementation, and the chain of events that led his father, President Spencer W. Kimball, to seek revelation regarding changing the policy. Black Africans' interest in joining the Church, the Civil Rights movement, Church members' changing perceptions regarding the priesthood policy, and spiritual manifestations all contributed to President Kimball's landmark decision. The article describes how President Kimball went about obtaining the revelation allowing all worthy male Church members to receive the priesthood, how the revelation was spiritually confirmed to other leaders, and members' reactions when the change was announced. This article is footnoted in a Gospel Topic on LDS.org.

Available for purchase:

Walking in the Sand: A History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ghana, softcover book, print on demand, by Emmanuel A. Kissi, $21.95

When the priesthood was extended to blacks in 1978, faithful followers rejoiced and a new day dawned in Africa. Senior missionary couples soon arrived in Ghana, and within a year 400 people were baptized, many coming from congregations that were patterned after the Church and that had operated unofficially for more than a decade.

With Church growth came persecution. Rumors spread that both the organization and the missionaries were American spies. In June 1989, the Ghanaian government instituted an eighteen–month "Freeze," forcing all Church activities to cease. The Freeze was lifted in 1991. The number of stakes has now multiplied, with a temple dedicated in 2004.

"Walking in the sand," a Ghanaian expression meaning "alive and well," aptly describes the Latter–day Saints in Ghana.