The Mormon Faith & Black Folks
Question #15

Q.How did the revelation in 1978, as you call it, granting the Priesthood to black folks come about?

A.The LDS Church builds temples. These are not ordinary churches nor cathedrals. They are special buildings where only the most sacred ordinances take places. These sacred ordinances include:

*Baptisms for the Dead

*Endowments

*Sealings

*Baptisms for the Dead

The Church baptized living people on behalf of, or in the name of, people who were dead; because when Jesus died He went and preached unto the spirits in prison (Hell); so that they also could repent of their sins, be baptized, and enter the Kingdom of God. Because of Jesus’ atonement for our sins, Hell would no longer be eternal. Men and women in Hell could repent of their sins and become saved; just like people in this world. Other Christians churches and organizations teach that all those millions of black folks who died en route to the Americas, in the ships of white slavers or in the caravans of Arab slavers, will burn in Hell for all eternity; because they were Pagans, and never had the opportunity to even hear Jesus’ name; much less His Gospel. The belief of Evangelical Christianity is that all of the souls of those black folks will perish, and be tortured for all eternity; without end. It is also the belief of Evangelical Christianity that if the white slavers were Bible-believing Christians, and many white slavers claimed to be, then they will go to Heaven for all eternity; even if they enslaved black people and caused much death and suffering by their actions.

At an Evangelical Christian missions conference in Chicago, Illinois, in 1960, the following statement was read:

“Since the [Second World] War more than one billions souls have passed into eternity and more than half of these went to the torment of hell-fire without even hearing of Jesus Christ, who he was, or why he died on the cross of Calvary.” (The Second Christianity, p.77)

It is the belief of Christendom (Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christianity) that all the billions and billions of people who have lived and died on this planet without even having the chance to hear the name ‘Jesus’ will burn in Hell forever; with no hope of redemption.

Think of that for a moment.

Think of all those billions of people screaming, crying, being burned and tortured for trillions of trillions of years, and then for all eternity, simply because they didn’t have a chance to hear the Gospel and accept it.

Does that sound fair to you? Does that sound like the actions of a just and loving Creator?

The LDS Church, which claims to be the Divine Restoration of Original Christianity,  denies this, and teaches that those who haven’t heard the gospel in this life, will have that opportunity in the Spirit-World; that existence between death and the Resurrection of the Dead. The ancient Christian writer Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.) wrote:

“The Lord God remembered His dead people of Israel who lay in the graves; and He descended to preach to them His own salvation.” (Anti-Nicene Fathers 1:235)

The ancient Christian writer Irenaeus (130-200 A.D.), a disciple of Polycarp—who was himself a disciple of John the Revelator—wrote:

“The Lord descended to the parts under the earth, announcing to them also the good news of his coming, there being remission of sins for such as believe on him.” (Against Heresies 4.27.1)

Christendom teaches that when we die we go immediately to either Heaven or Hell. Orthodox Christians used to teach that if you were an Orthodox Christian you went to Heaven when you died. All others, including Catholic and Evangelical Christians, went to an eternal Hell. Catholics were taught that if you were a good Catholic you would go to Heaven when you died. If you were a bad Catholic you would go to Purgatory (a temporary Hell), and then to Heaven. All others, including Orthodox Christians and Evangelical Christians would go to Hell; because they are not Catholics. Evangelical Christians believe that when you died if you are an Evangelical Christian you will go to Hell. Since only Evangelical Christians are truly “born-again”, and are the only true Christians (as they believe) then all other people will burn in Hell forever; including those who have lived and died without having the opportunity to hear the name of Jesus nor His Gospel.

Latter-day Saints believe that if you are born-again–if you accept Jesus with all your heart, might, mind, and strength–you will go to Paradise (in the Spirit-World) when you die. If you have not been born-again, you will go to Hell. But at the Day of Judgment all are brought out of Paradise and Hell and stand before God; to be judged according to their works. Hell is thus seen as a place of purification. If Jesus’ blood does not purify the soul via being born-again, then Hell-fire will. But, ultimately, all souls will be purified; either via the Blood of Jesus (by being born-again) or via Hell-fire (by going to Hell).  At the Day of Judgment Jesus will reward each purified soul according to their works; since there are varying degrees of reward in Heaven.

An important part of LDS Temples is to have living people baptized on their behalf; so that they to can enter the Kingdom of God if they accept the Gospel their and repent of their sins. The does not mean that people will be given a second chance to accept Jesus as Lord. Nay, but that those who had not the opportunity in mortal life to even hear the name ‘Jesus’ will have that opportunity in the Spirit-World; just as men and women do in this earthly life. To condemn human souls to an eternity of fiery torture and not give them the opportunity to accept Jesus is contrary to the Justice of God, and contrary to the Bible itself.

*Endowments

Jesus said that for one to gain Eternal Life they must “Know thee, the Only True God, and Jesus Christ whom ye have sent”(). To know God means more than just accepted Jesus as one’s Personal Savior. To accept Jesus as Savior means to be saved. This is Salvation. But to know God means something more. Man cannot know God, but God can reveal to men and women, via divine revelation, a knowledge of Him.

In Mormon Temples this knowledge is given via certain symbols. These symbols are very sacred, and Latter-day Saints do not reveal them outside of the Temples.  These symbols are given to them in the Endowment; which is a very sacred ceremony that faithful and worthy Members of the Church go through in LDS temples around the world. The symbols themselves are tied to certain covenants (agreements) that Mormons make with God in the temples. These symbols themselves reveal this divine knowledge only to those who are worthy and spiritual. They also act to conceal this divine knowledge for those who are unworthy and carnal.

*Sealings

The Church also uses the Priesthood to seal men and woman, and their children, together for all eternity. This is called sealing. It means that worthy Latter-day Saint couples can be married for all eternity; not just here on earth, and that they can have seal their children also to them: so that they can continue the family relationship in Heaven.

Mormons believe that if they are sealed in the Temple, by the power and authority of the Priesthood, and remain worthy until the end of their lives, they shall be exalted, become Immoral Aeons, received the honorary title of “gods”, and inherit Gardens of Eden on worlds without end.

Before 1978, people of Hamitic lineage, regardless of the color of their skin, were allowed to become Members of the Church, but they were not allowed to partake of the Higher Ordinances (Endowments and Sealings) in LDS Temples; because the ordinances therein are inseparably connected with the Priesthood, and people of Hamitic lineage were banned from the Priesthood.

The Church now has over 100 temples throughout the world; either built or planned. The most important of these temples is the Salt Lake Temple; in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A. It is next to the Church Office Buildings; including the Administrative Building where The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have their offices.  They go into the Salt Lake Temple next door every week for meetings.

The Salt Lake Temple has one room which no other Mormon Temple has. It is called the “Holy of Holies”. It is the most sacred room in all the Church, and, for that matter, on planet Earth. It is a room where the President of the Church goes to receive divine Revelation from the LORD.

For many decades Presidents of the Church have been concerned about the Church’s black Members. Most of them had shown exceeding faith, and had been examples of righteousness that most white Members could only envy. Apostles in the Church would ask the President to end the Priesthood ban. The President would enter the Holy of Holies, and come back and say “Not yet”. This was the LORD’s directive. The Will of the LORD had to be accepted; whether they liked it or not.

Many white Members in the Church wondered just how the Restored Gospel could be taken to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and peoples, as was the command of Jesus, when in fact a large portion of those nations could not hold the Priesthood. It seemed like a contradiction. A few Members of the Church tried to convince others that the Priesthood ban was all just one big misunderstanding. But the Presidents of the Church said it was the Will of the LORD, and that they would have to just trust in Him that everything would work out in the end.

Most Members believed that black folks wouldn’t receive the Priesthood until sometime during or after the Millennium; when Christ returns to rule the earth. This was based on statements of Brigham Young and others; who declared that the curse wouldn’t be removed until the descendants of Abel first received the Priesthood. The reasoning was that Cain killed Abel; thus cutting-off his posterity from life. A dead Abel could have no children to give the Priesthood to. So, God decreed that the posterity of Cain would not receive the Priesthood until Abel was resurrected from the dead, had children, and received the Priesthood first. Then, the curse would be removed; allowing the posterity of Cain to also receive it. It was assumed that Abel would not be resurrected until the Resurrection of the Just; which would be at the Second Advent of Christ: the beginning of His 1000 year reign on earth, also called the “Millennium” (Latin: “1000 years”).

Now, if Abel would not be resurrected until the Resurrection of the Just, at the beginning of the Millennium, and he would have children on this earth during the Millennium, and their children would continue to have children until the end of the Millennium, it was assumed that Abel’s posterity would continue for at least 1000 years, and that all of them must have the Priesthood before the first Cainite received it.

One LDS Apostle who championed this view was Elder Bruce R. McConkie, the son-in-law of President Joseph Fielding Smith, and the author of a reference book titled Mormon Doctrine. Elder McConkie championed not only the view that blacks would not receive the Priesthood until after the Millennium, or the Post-Millennial view, but also he championed the cause of his father-in-law: the First Humans Theory (that Adam and Eve were the first human beings on this planet). Elder McConkie, like his father-in-law, was extremely dogmatic in his statements. He never presented them as personal views or theories, but as absolute truth and Church doctrine.  But some of these views were certainly not official Chruch doctrine.

*Mormon Doctrine book NOT Official Church Doctrine

Many Members of the Church mistakenly believe that Mormon Doctrine contains official LDS Doctrine; because of its title.

But this is not true!

The book Mormon Doctrine is not an official publication of the LDS Church. It contains the personal views and opinions of Elder McConkie, and nothing more. Yet, because his work became so popular as a reference work, many Church teachers and Members assumed that what it said was in fact official LDS Doctrine, and that black folks would not receive the Priesthood until during or after the Millennium. It is unfortunate that the title of the book has confused so many, and caused them to assume that Mormon Doctrine is a book on official LDS Church doctrine; when in fact it was a book expressing the personal opinions and interpretations, and personal speculations, of Elder Bruce R. McConkie.

But God had other plans.

*The Brazil Situation

Starting in the 1920s the Church began to send missionaries to Brazil. The country of Brazil is somewhat unique in the Americas. Like the United States, it brought millions of blacks from Africa to work in plantations as slaves. Like the United States, it freed its slaves; the U.S. in 1863-5, and Brazil in 1888. But unlike the United States, the blacks of Brazil often intermarried with white and Indian (native) Brazilians.

The United States has had some intermarriage between white and black, but not much. Most African-Americans have white blood not because of intermarriage, but because white masters would often rape or seduce black females slaves; producing Mulatto slave children, who would then intermarry with other Mulattos or Negroes. But in Brazil lower and middle-class whites would often intermarry with blacks; thus producing a huge Mulatto population in Brazil. Most Brazilians are, in fact, part Negro; except for a few exceptions:

*Upper-class Ibero-Brazilians

*Japanese-Brazilians

*German-Brazilian

*Italo-Brazilians

Brazil was a colony of Portugal (on the Iberian peninsula with Spain), and settled by white Portuguese. They tried to make the native Indians slaves, but they’d constantly run-away into the huge forests and jungles of Brazil and join other Indian tribes. Then black slaves were brought over. The blacks could not run away. The native Indians usually would not accept them. They had no choice but to remain in their condition, and do the best they could. When slavery ended in 1888, black Brazilian began to intermarry with lower-class white Brazilian, and sometimes Indians. The upper-class white Brazilians kept to themselves, and didn’t marry people of lower-classes; especially Negroes or Indians.

Brazil have had two other large immigrant populations: Germans and Japanese. The Germans came and settled in the South of Brasil; where the climate was similar to Southern and Central Europe. The Japanese came as farmers, and kept mainly to themselves. The Italians also came to Brazil; mostly to the South and in large cities. They too mostly kept to themselves.

When the LDS Church first sent missionaries to Brazil, they discovered that most of the middle and lower classes were Mulatto. Since anyone with Hamitic blood (no matter their outward appearance) was banned from the Priesthood, it was decided that the missionaries should only preach among the Germans of the South of Brazil and Italian immigrants.

But this changed.

In 1941 Brazil declared war against Germany and Italy. Missionary work among Germans and Italians in Brazil came to a stand-still.

At that point, Church leaders decided to take the Message of the Restoration to the rest of Brazil. Blacks and Mulattos could be baptized if they requested it, but missionaries would not take them the Message affirmatively to them. However, the response to the Message from people of mixed blood was great; because they were usually poor and thus more humble and open to spiritual things. Brazilians of the upper classes were usually closed to the Gospel message; because they were comfortable and proud.

Over the next decades tens of thousands of Brazilians were baptized into the Church; including several thousand Mulattos, who could not hold the Priesthood. However, Mormons are expected to discover their genealogy; as part of their Temple work. A number of white Brazilian Mormons did this, and discovered that they were in fact 4th or 5th or 6th generation Negroes. This means that they had a great-grandfather or great-grandmother who was black.  Many of the males had already been given the Priesthood, because they appeared white, and it was assumed they had no African or Hamitic lineage.

But they did.

In 1968 an American Mormon researcher came back from Brazil and wrote:

“My studies currently in Brazil, have led me to conclude that most Brazilians who are not second or third generation descendants of German, Italian, Polish, or Japanese immigrants, are probably descendants of Negroes. This is especially true among the lower and lower-middle classes, which made up a large portion of this land.... In some of the branches of the Church which my wife and I have attended here in Brazil, there appear to be priesthood bearers who possess the essential characteristics of the Negroid race.” (Dialogue, Autumn 1968, p.8)

What was to be done?

Since there was no Temple in Brazil at that time, nothing really was done. Most of these men continued to hold the Priesthood, and use it. Many of these people had shown exceeding faith, and had sacrificed and contributed to the Church. The Church decided that it was going to build a Temple in Brazil, in Sao Paulo, the largest city in that country.

Many of the Apostles were in agony on what to do. Should they revoke the priesthoods from thousands of good brethren? Should they deny entry to the Temple in Sao Paulo to thousands of Members of the Church who had shown exceeding faith and had sacrificed greatly to build the Temple?

The Brethren (The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) discussed it over and over again at their meetings. They decided the only thing to do was to again inquire of the LORD. They agreed that if the LORD said “Not yet” again, they would abide by that divine decree; whatever the consequences for the Church and for the thousands of faithful Brazilian Members who would be denied entry into the Temple.

President Spencer W. Kimball asks his two Counselors in The First Presidency (the presiding council of the Church) and The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second highest council in the Church) to pray and fast, as they had never done before. President Kimball did likewise, and, one last time, he entered the Holy of Holies in the Salt Lake City Temple, and asked the LORD, one more time, if the Priesthood ban could be lifted.

This time, the LORD said: Yes.

President Kimball later explained what had happened. He said:

“I remember very vividly that day after day I walked to the Temple and ascended to the fourth floor where we have our solemn assemblies and where we have our meetings of the Twelve and the First Presidency. After everybody had gone out of the Temple, I knelt and prayed. I prayed with much fervency. I knew that something was before us that were extremely important to many of the children of God. I knew that we could receive the revelations of the Lord only by being worthy and ready for them and ready to accept them and put them into place. Day after day I went in alone and with great solemnity and seriousness in the upper rooms of the Temple, and there I offered my soul and offered my efforts to go forward with the program. I wanted to do what He wanted. I talked about it to Him and said, ‘Lord, I want only what is right. We are not making any plans to be spectacular moving. We want only the thing thou dost want, and we want it when you want it and not until.’

We met with the Council of the Twelve Apostles, time after time, in the holy room where there is a picture of the Savior in many different moods and also pictures of all the Presidents of the Church. Finally we had the feeling and impression from the Lord, who made it very clear to us, that this was the thing to do to make the gospel universal to all worthy people.” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp.450-51)

This was on June 1st, 1978.

The First Presidency did not wait until next General Conference to make the announcement. They made the announcement in a Solemn Assembly in the Salt Lake Temple on June 8th, 1978; exactly seven years, to the day, that the Genesis Group of black Latter-day Saints had their first meeting. They made the declaration to the Church-at-large and to the public and media on June 9th , 1978.

The 1978 Statement from The First Presidency on the Revelation Granting the Priesthood to All Worthy Males Regardless of Race, Color, or Lineage. (Also known as Official Declaration 2 in The Book of the Doctrine & Covenants)

June 8, 1978

To all general and local priesthood officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the world:

As we have witnessed the expansion of the work of the Lord over the earth, we have been grateful that people of many nations have responded to the message of the restored gospel, and have joined the Church in ever-increasing numbers. This, in turn, has inspired us with a desire to extent to every worthy member of the Church all the privileges and blessing which the gospel affords.

Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, 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, we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of those, our faithful brethren, spending many hours in the upper room of the Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance.

He 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 there from, including the blessings of the Temple. Accordingly, all worthy male members of the church may be ordained to the Priesthood without regard for race or color. Priesthood leaders are instructed to follow the policy of carefully interviewing all candidates for ordination to either the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood to insure that they meet the established standards for worthiness.

We declare with soberness that the Lord has now made known His will for the blessing of all His children throughout the earth who will hearken to the voice of His authorized servants, and prepare themselves to receive every blessing of the gospel.

Sincerely yours,

Spencer W. Kimball

N. Eldon Tanner

Marion G. Romney

This statement was not the 1978 Revelation itself, but rather the official declaration, which announced that such a Revelation was received. The Revelation was received by members of The First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles in the Upper Room in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1st. The Official Declaration was written on June 8th, and released on June 9th. The 1978 Revelation was not a ‘Thus saith the LORD’ revelation, but a calm assurance that came over the Presidents and Apostles of the Church when they prayed to the LORD and all received the same personal revelation that it was His Will to grant the Priesthood to all worthy males regardless of lineage.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie (Apostle) later wrote of how the Revelation was received:

“When we were...by ourselves in that sacred place where we meet weekly...President Kimball brought up the matter of the possible conferral of the Priesthood upon those of all races. That was a subject that the group of us had discussed at some length on numerous occasions in the preceding weeks and months. He said that if the answer was to continue our present course of denying the Priesthood to the seed of Cain, as the Lord had theretofore directed, he was prepared to defend that decision to the death. But, he said, if the long sought day had come in which the curse of the past was to be removed, he thought we might prevail upon the Lord so to indicate. It was during this prayer that the Revelation came. The Spirit of the Lord rested mightily upon us all; we felt something akin to what happened on the Day of Pentecost and at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple.

***

And we all heard the same voice, received the same message, and became personal witnesses that the Word received was the mind and will and voice of the Lord.” (The LDS Church and African Americans, pp.4-5 online)

On June 10th, one day after the announcement that the Priesthood ban had been revoked, the Deseret News explained the catalyst that caused it:

“A major problem the Church has faced with its policy regarding blacks was in Brazil, where the Church is building a temple. Many people there are mixed racially, and it is often impossible to determine whether church members have black ancestry.” (Deseret News, June 10, 1978)

The Official Declaration had itself said what inspired The Brethren to petition and supplication the LORD from the Revelation. They wrote of “witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the Priesthood had been withheld, we have pleaded long and earnestly on behalf of these, our faithful brethren.” (Official Declaration 2).

It was the exceeding faithfulness of those who were banned from the Priesthood that inspired The Brethren to petition and supplicate the LORD to remove the Priesthood ban from off of the Hamitic lineage. It was the unselfish faith of the black Member of the Genesis Group, founded on June 8th, 1971. It was the selfless and faithful sacrifices of the black and Mulatto Mormons of Brazil and Africa who inspired The Brethren to plead on their knees, and in humility, to the LORD in the Temple for the lifting of the Priesthood ban. The LORD accepted their exceeding faith, and the supplications of His Prophets, on June 1st, 1978.

Not long after the 1978 Revelation, Joseph Freeman, an African-American convert to the Church, became the first black Mormon ordained to the Priesthood since Elijah Abel II; the grandson of Elijah Abel. On June 14th, 1978, Joseph Freeman and his family received the sealing ordinances in the Salt Lake Temple (Deseret News, June 14th, 1978).

On November 6, 1978, Helvecio Martins and his wife Ruda, two black Brazilian Members, were sealed in the Sao Paulo Temple with their four children. Brother Martins was soon afterwards called to serve as a counselor in a Stake Presidency. His son Marcus soon was serving as the first black Negro Mormon missionary since Elijah Abel (Deseret News, Dec. 16, 1978)

On August 16th, 1978, anti-Mormon authors Rev. Wesley P. Walters and Chris Vlachos had an interview with Elder LeGrand Richards, an Apostle, and asked him what prompted the President of the Church to petition the LORD to revoke the Priesthood ban. Elder Richards replied:

“Down in Brazil, there is so much Negro blood in the population there that it’s hard to get leaders that don’t have Negro blood in them. We just built a temple down there. It’s going to be dedicated in October [1978]. All those people with Negro blood in them have been raising money to build that temple. If we don’t change, then they can’t even use it. Well, Brother Kimball worried about it, and he prayed about it. He asked each one of Twelve [Apostles] if we would pray–and we did–that the Lord would give him inspiration to know what the will of the Lord was.” (The Segregation of Israel, pp.184-5)

It wasn’t the public protests nor public condemnation in the United States, which prompted the Church to revoke the Priesthood ban. It wasn’t the liberals in the Church, the Sunstone Mormons, who inspired the change.  It was the exceeding faith of the Mulattoes of Brazil and the Negro Members throughout the world which inspired the President of the Church and the Apostles to plead and petition the LORD to revoke it, and He did.


Please feel free to e-mail Darrick Evenson

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