Mormons Celebrate Revelation on the Priesthood

News Story

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced a celebration will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah, marking the 40th anniversary of the 1978 revelation on the priesthood.

In June 1978, President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985), former Church president, announced that priesthood blessings would be extended to all of God’s children everywhere: “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 temple” (Doctrine and Covenants, Official Declaration 2).

Reaction worldwide was overwhelmingly positive among Church members of all races. The Church began priesthood ordinations for men of African descent immediately, and black men and women entered temples throughout the world and continue to do so in increasing numbers today.

Members of the Church in Canada remember this announcement as a time to rejoice. Even after 40 years, many can recall their feelings when they heard the announcement.

Walter Saunders, a native of Jamaica, was living in Milton, Ontario, at the time of the revelation. He states, “I felt happy and humble. [The announcement] occurred shortly after I was baptized into the Church. I was excited and very comfortable when I heard the news.” The revelation has impacted Saunders’ life greatly as he has since had the opportunity to serve in the temple for over 10 years, including as a member of the Toronto Ontario Temple presidency.

Saunders’ daughter, Grace Hogberg of Guelph, Ontario, says, “Looking back on it as an adult, the lesson [the announcement of the revelation has] taught me is that things happen in their own due time and that you have to rely on our Heavenly Father and believe that He loves all of His children.”

Ellison Corbin was born in Barbados and immigrated to Canada in 1976. He became aware of the Church in 1977 when the missionaries visited his home. As a black man, it was difficult to hear that he would not be able to hold the priesthood and therefore would not be able to attend the temple. However, the missionaries told him that “the Lord promised that the time will come when all worthy men will have the opportunity to hold the priesthood.” That was all he needed to hear, and he was certain that it would happen in his lifetime. With this assurance, he and his wife, Eleanor, were baptized on March 31, 1978, in Scarborough, Ontario.

Within weeks of his baptism, on June 8, 1978, the revelation on the priesthood was received. Three days later, on June 11, 1978, Corbin was ordained a priest, and in October 1979, his family was sealed in the Washington D.C. Temple. “I was very happy and honoured,” he says. “However, I could see that the members were also just as happy to see that the day had come to pass after so many years of waiting.”

Since that time, Corbin has served in many priesthood callings, including as an ordinance worker in the Toronto Ontario Temple. He acknowledges, “I have been blessed and have been able to draw closer to the Lord every day. My family and many others have benefited from these priesthood blessings over these years.”

Those who had already received the priesthood and temple blessings rejoiced that their brothers and sisters in the gospel would now enjoy the same blessings as they had received.

Mike Todd, a Church member from Surrey, British Columbia, was living in South Africa at the time of the 1978 announcement. He states: “I was born and raised in South Africa during the apartheid era. Schools, public transportation, suburbs and almost every form of everyday life were divided along racial lines.”

“During this era,” Todd continues, “non-whites were not excluded from attending any church, yet there were few who joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as it was at that time a religion that proselyted to the white population. The congregations that I attended during those years had few non-white members, but they were welcomed and treated respectfully. With the announcement of 1978 that all worthy males could receive the priesthood, missionary efforts changed. The non-white population responded to the preaching of the gospel and started joining the Church in increasing numbers. This has been a most welcome change in South Africa and indeed in all African countries!”

Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form. Since 1978, the Church has looked to the future as membership among Africans and those of African descent worldwide has continued to grow rapidly. The number of these members is now in the hundreds of thousands.

The Church proclaims that redemption through Jesus Christ is available to the entire human family on the conditions God has prescribed. It affirms that God is “no respecter of persons” and emphatically declares that anyone who is righteous — regardless of race — is favoured of Him. The teachings of the Church in relation to God’s children are epitomized by a verse in the Book of Mormon: “[The Lord] denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33).

We invite Church members, their families and friends to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the revelation on the priesthood. A worldwide broadcast will originate from the Church’s Conference Center on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, on June 1, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. (mountain daylight time) and can be viewed on Canada.lds.org. The program will include a message from Church leadership and music from a variety of choirs.

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