Blacks in the Priesthood

By Pamela

On June 8, 1978 President Spencer W. Kimball, then President and Prophet of the Mormon Church, issued the following statement: "…we are grateful that many nations have responded to the message of the restored gospel, and have joined the [Mormon] Church in ever-increasing numbers…in God's eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood, and witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the priesthood has been withheld…[the Lord] 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 therefrom, including the blessings of the [Mormon] Temple…all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color."1

It is important to clarify what the priesthood is in the Mormon Church; it is the authority to act in God's name. This same priesthood authority that existed in the original Church and which was established by Jesus Christ exists in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint/Mormon Church today. The Mormon Church is directed and led through this authority.

To say that the Mormons are racists because the Blacks did not receive the priesthood until 1978 is a grave misconception. President David O. McKay, Mormon Prophet, stated numerous times that 'he was greatly saddened that he never felt able to remove the racial restriction' [that of Blacks receiving the priesthood]. He mentioned that it was 'not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of a direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church…'2

Mormons believe that a doctrine is a fundamental belief or teaching considered within the Church to be inspired or revealed. A policy is a specific program or practice implemented within the framework of the doctrine…there was more to giving the Negroes the priesthood than an administrative decision to change the practice or policy.

In 1969 the First Presidency issued a statement that the Negro was not yet to receive the priesthood, "for reasons which we believe are known to God, but which He has not made fully know to man."2
Sometimes there are issues that must be accepted totally upon faith knowing that the Prophet of the Church is speaking for God. It is not the job of the Prophet to convince the 'hearer' of the truthfulness of the issue at hand; it is the 'hearer's'. It is his job to confirm what the Prophet has said through sincere prayer – to confirm that it is what God wants at that particular time, sometimes not knowing the reasons. That is the test for the 'hearer'.

1 "Revelation on Priesthood Accepted, Church Officers Sustained", Ensign, Nov, 1978, p16

2 "What of the Negro?", Moyle