Special Feature | BYU Studies

Special Feature

January 30, 2018
Special Feature
Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Revelation on Priesthood
Author

BYU Multicultural Student Services held a Martin Luther King Day candlelight vigil and commemoration program on BYU campus on January 18. Read about the event here.

Part of the event is the reading of the winning entry of the student Martin Luther King essay contest. Melodie Jackson's winning essay is available here.

As we begin to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the 1978 revelation on priesthood and temple access for all, regardless of race, we invite you to read some BYU Studies articles on the subject and also to review the LDS Church's statement Race and the Priesthood

 

Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood, by Edward L. Kimball, BYU Studies Quarterly Vol. 47, no. 2.

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.

 

Thirty Years after the "Long-Promised Day": Reflections and Expectations, by Marcus H. Martins, BYU Studies Quarterly Vol. 47, no. 2.

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.

 

A Reflection from an African Convert on Official Declaration 2, by Khumbulani D. Mdletshe, BYU Studies Quarterly Vol. 55, no. 4

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.

 

Book review of Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness by W. Paul Reeve and For the Cause of Righteousness: A Global History of Blacks and Mormonism, 1830–2013, reviewed by Patrick Q. Mason, BYU Studies Quarterly Vol. 55, no. 1.

Mormonism's fraught relationship with American and global racial diversity remains for many observers and believers one of the religion's most troubling aspects. The most perplexing aspect of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' historically racialist policies was overturned in 1978 when the Church leadership granted priesthood ordination to all worthy men regardless of color or racial background, and allowed all qualifying members, without respect to race, to enter its temples. Yet the Church and its members continue to wrestle with the legacy of those policies and the flotilla of race based theological pronouncements assembled and deployed particularly during the religion's first century-and-a-half. 

 

Race and the Priesthood, at LDS.org

In theology and practice, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embraces the universal human family. Latter-day Saint scripture and teachings affirm that God loves all of His children and makes salvation available to all.