I remember that June day in 1978 when all worthy men were allowed to hold the priesthood. It is etched in my memory.

I also remember some other things associated with it and I want to go on record before my voice is lost to history.

At 16, I was old enough to be fully cognizant and aware of the events and the implications.

Even at that age, I was an avid newspaper reader. I read two major daily papers and several weekly papers cover-to-cover.

Some events stuck in my mind:

1. It came out of nowhere.

Over the years I've read a lot of rationales that posit why and how the policy was changed. Some people and events were given credit for helping to change things.

Some of these so-called pivotal events occurred years before 1978, like protests and abuse directed at Brigham Young University athletic teams.

What I remember is what I've heard Brother Darius Gray remark, "It came out of nowhere." I wished I'd saved his quote so that I could reference it here, but I can't. He's been a member since the 1960s and was living in Utah in 1978.

It DID come out of nowhere. I remember reading the commentary in the news about this. Basically, everybody had given up trying to pressure or influence the Church.

The revelation announcement took both the supporters of it and the opponents of it by surprise. One specific editorial I read remarked that it came when no conceivable pressure was being exerted on the Church.

That is what I remember.

2. There was some opposition that was formal and organized. Some opposition was personal and informal.

The people who opposed it largely kept it to themselves, families, friends, or known like-minded others.

My family, friends, acquaintances, and fellow church members all supported it and were largely ecstatic.

My mother told me later that she either saw or heard of, people walking out of the temple or temple sessions when black members were present. This was probably the Ogden, Utah temple since it was the one we lived closest to.

I remember either a half-page or full-page advertising spread in one of the daily newspapers I read, probably the Ogden Standard-Examiner.

In this spread, it was soliciting non-support for the revelation and urged people to join the effort which I think was somewhere in North Ogden which would make the Standard-Examiner the likely paper it was in.

I was anxious to read about what came of this effort from the advertising news spread. I never heard of it again. I have no idea what happened if anything.

The inappropriateness of this was stunning. The President of the Church, Spencer W. Kimball, either was a prophet or he wasn't. There was, and is, no middle ground.

A revelation received through the prophet is central to our belief system. To reject the revelation was to reject the entire Church and one's faith in it. I imagine some did although I neither knew any nor knew of any.

3. One last observation

I've avoided writing this post for years, actually. I didn't want to rehearse or give any credence to the mythologies, rationales, folklore or downright cruelty that blacks, and especially black members, have suffered over the years.

Long before the Internet, it was difficult to find sources for quotes or positions. Generally, you had to find them in a book or ask someone who had access to the hard-copy record(s).

This was hard. Most people weren't motivated to do this, but I was. I would approach the highest-ranking church leaders and scholars I encountered and asked them my questions about why blacks were barred from the priesthood.

When questioned directly, most would hedge. When I pressed them for the source of their belief or conviction, I invariably got told that it was simply their opinion.

I remember thinking, "They don't know." "Nobody knows." The Church never gave any official rationale for this practice. It was people and their opinions that muddied the waters so badly.

This is an incredible incentive not to speculate on anything, now or ever.

However, I want to point out one small caveat concerning the prevalent mythology, now completely discredited, that blacks earned their black skin in the pre-mortal life by not being valiant.

This belief could never have been believed or spread widely if it hadn't been tied to behavior of some sort, albeit behavior in the pre-mortal life. Blacks have always been deity in embryo just like the rest of us.

As children of our Heavenly Father, they have always carried the seeds of deity within them just like everyone else.

The notion that blacks were somehow inferior could never have gained credence alone. It had to be tied to behavior or members would never have found it believable.


I certainly supported the revelation in 1978, but I'm distressed that we are still separating ourselves into categories.

Categories will never lead us to unity

Elder Ahmad S. Corbitt, currently serving in the Sunday School General Presidency wrote a series of essays that can be accessed on the Church's History website. They are well worth your time:

Revelations in the Summer of 1978
A Personal Essay on Race and the Priesthood, Part 1

Seeing as We Are Seen
A Personal Essay on Race and the Priesthood, Part 2

He makes a compelling case for the point that the Book of Mormon is truly a story of triumph over racial and cultural categories and divisions.

We really can be one!

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