The Mormon Faith & Black Folks
Question #16

Q. But wasn’t the 1978 Revelation really a bowing of the Church to government and social pressure?

A. No. Some have made this claim; mostly anti-Mormons. But there was comparatively little ‘social pressure’ on the Church in 1978; not compared with the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s. Some have claimed that the U.S. government was threatening to revoke the Church’s tax-exempt status, but this is false! There is absolutely no truth to this rumor. The U.S. Government did threaten to without Federal aid to Brigham Young University, but BYU informed them that they didn’t receive any Federal aid in the first place.

There is a story, perpetuated by Fundamentalist ‘Mormons’ (people who claim to be Mormons but don’t accept the Apostles of the Church--most of these have never been members of the LDS Church) that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter flew to Salt Lake City and met secretly with President Spencer W. Kimball and warned that if he didn’t grant blacks the Priesthood the U.S. Government would confiscate all Church property, etc. In March 2001 a Fundamentalist ‘Mormon’ named Kathy Erickson sent a letter to The Salt Lake Tribune which stated that the U.S. Government threatened to withdraw the Church’s tax-exempt status if it did not give the Priesthood to black males. The Church Spokesman at that time, Bruce L. Olsen, replied with a letter of his own:

“We state categorically that the federal government made no such threat in 1978 or at any other time. The decision to extend the blessings of the priesthood to all worthy males had nothing to do with federal tax policy or any other secular law. In the absence of proof, we conclude that Ms. Erickson is seriously mistaken.” (The Salt Lake Tribune, April 5, 2001).

There was really very little external pressure on the Church after 1976 regarding this issue. The Church has been very open as to what inspired The Brethren to ask the LORD for a rescinding of the Priesthood ban. They claim it was not external or internal pressure, but rather the exceeding faith of the Negro and Mulatto Saints, which inspired them to petition the LORD. The Church was building a Temple in Sao Paulo, Brazil; where most Mormons have Negro ancestry. The Brethren had to make a decision. So, they inquired of the LORD. The 1999-2000 Church Almanac says:

“So dramatic was the impact of the announcement of this revelation that the news of it spread across the world in a matter of hours, ‘bringing tears of humility, elation and happiness to many members, especially those of African origins, and to their families.’ The revelation was the lead story in the nightly news on television, and Time and Newsweek magazines held their deadlines to include the announcement. The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times were among the major newspapers that carried the announcement on their front pages. Faithful Latter-day Saint men of African ancestry had the priesthood conferred upon them, and many were called to leadership positions. Joseph Freeman Jr., of Salt Lake City is believed to be the first black ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood following the revelation. Members in Brazil of African ancestry who, as they labored selflessly on the construction of the Sao Paulo Temple, had been a source of inspiration to the First Presidency were among those ordained. Marcus Helvecio Martins was the first called to serve a full-time mission.” (LDS Church Almanac 1999-2000 p.118 emphases added)

Ruffin Bridgeforth Jr., the African-American founder of the Genesis Group (official black Mormon fraternal organization) said in 1980:

“I know it was a revelation from God. Many people say it was pressure put on the Church by this and by that, but I know it was a revelation.” (This People, Winter issue, 1980, p.17)

Please feel free to e-mail Darrick Evenson

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