- June 1st - 40th Anniversary of 1978 Revelation Event


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I have been going to my Fiancee's branch which includes much of inner-city Detroit for the last month or so. They have announced this event in both sacrament meeting and priesthood opening exercises.


Some of the materials published with this announcement are really good. It amazes me that I still come across those who have not read the "Race and the Priesthood" Gospel Topics essay. I would urge everyone to read it. I have also talked to people within the last year who thought that early ordianations of those of African descent to the priesthood were abberations of what Church policy was then. Elija Able clearly was ordained with the acceptance of Joseph Smith. He not only was made an elder, but also a seventy. To be fair my grandfather was ordained a seventy immediately before he started on his mission in 1941 at age 21. However for his third mission in the 1870s Elder Able was set apart by Joseph F. Smith, then 2nd counselor in the first presidency, and possibly the man most responsble for later pushing a hard line of no ordination of people with African descent. Although my grandfather also told me that in the 1930s in his ward in Filmore, Utah they received first presidency approval to ordain members of a family of known African descent to the priesthood. 


I also had an African-American friend who went to the Provo Temple and did baptisms for the dead in 1975. From what he said I got the impression his bishop and stake president were told they should not have given a limited use reccomend to a man who did not hold the priesthood, but the people running the temple let him do baptisms even though there is no way they didnt realize he was or African descent, and if his leaders got chided for their irregular actions they were clearly not realeased from their callings for such.


There was a case of someone excommunicated in 1976 for ordaining a man of African descent to the priesthood. However this was probalby more because the individual performed both a baptism and an ordination without authorization from the key holders than any factor related to the person they ordained.

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The BeOne website also has links to some stories of early African and African-American convets. Green Flake, who was with the original pioneer company of Brigham Young, and technically a slave at the time, is one covered. One of Green Flakes' owners descendants is married to an African-American woman and they named their first child Green Flake.

Another person chronicled is Eliza Manning James, who was briefly mentioned and even pictured during President Ballard's talk in last October general conference


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Still my favoriate is the story of Samuel and Amanda Chambers. It is from I believe a New Era Article published in 1975. It was in some ways clearly written as a message of how to be a faithful non-priesthood holding male member, in the days before Official Declaration 2. Some of its language feels a little dated, although luckily it was the 1970s and not the 1960s, so the term negro is not used.


Samual Chambers is super cool. He was a 13-year-old slave baptized in Mississippi in 1844. The next time anyone in the Church had contact with him was when he showed up in Salt Lake City in 1970, bringing not just his wife and son, but his wife's sister, her husband and three children. Chambers had spent the four years since being freed from slavery earning the money to gather to Zion. This despite the fact that Chambers had so little contact with the Church he makes men like Vincenzo di Francesca and Anthony Obinna look almost like fully fellowshipped people in the heart of Zion. Francesca and Obinna actually had period letters from Church leaders during their time of waiting for the blessings of the gospel. Chambers had no contact of any kind with any other member of the Church for the 26 years from his baptism until he went to Salt Lake City.


Event though Chambers was not ordained to the priesthood, he was very heavily active in the actions of the Deacons Quorum in his ward. In those days that meant cutting the wood for meetings and cleaning the chapel. He was also a leading agricultralist in the Salt Lake Valley.

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The June 2018 Ensign has 5, 6 if you count online only content, articles that at least somewhat mention Official Declaration 2, that are written by members of African descent. One is by Elder Edward Dube, a general authority seventy who is the father of the Church Educational System in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, and was the first stake president in Zimbabwe and the first Zimbabwean to serve as a mission president. Somehow EWlder Dube did not hear about the past preisthood restriction until he had been a member about 2 years and was serving a fulltime mission. It caused a day of struggle for him. Another is by Elder Fred Parker, an area seventy who is African-American and a native of Atlanta, Georgia. He met his LDS ethnic Samoan wife in Missouri (the Samoans jump started the final gathering to Jackson County). He mentions that the past priesthood restruiction was a hold up to his baptism in the early 1980s.


Another is by Darius Gray, who was a counselor in the Genesis Group presidency when it was formed in 1971. He actually says a lot less about the history issues involved than one might expect. He more speaks of unity for the future. In the online verison of his article he gives some specific examples of things not to say.


Kirstie Stenger-Weyland, who is almost certainly under age 25 (although because compiling the Ensign takes about a year, it is hard to judge for suce) illustrates that we need to not judge on outward appearances. Stenger-Weyland was adopted at or near birth by a white family, and got into a top notch university (I think BYU, but she never actually says) based on good grades and taking AP classes. Still a woman she at that time considered her best friend who didnt get in that same school, responded that Stenger-Weyland got in "because she was black". 


Other issues Steger-Weyland brings up is people asking her husband "what is it like being married to a black woman" as if somehow this is a class apart where one can stand for all. She also, as a lifelong member and returned missionary takes exception to people asking her if she is a recent convert. To be fair, a general profile of those baptized in the LDS Church in the last 24 months would show that a high percentage look like Steger-Weyland, but of course she is right that we should not assume based on something as ephemeral as skin color. 


For what it is worth when I went to EFY in Ohio in 1998 my roommate was the one black person in attendance, although one morning we did have devoltional speakers who were a balck couple, who met while they were both part of BYU's young ambassadors, and the husband was a professor of dance at Ohio University, one of the few Mormons on the factulty there.


About 10 years ago an African-American youth from my fiancee's branch went to EFY. He felt very much in the minority, although maybe not the lone black. Of course the film "Sisterz in Zion" that covers a group of inner-city young women from New York City going to EFY in 2003 gives interesting insites. It shows how these youth who start out feeling they have little in common with the country music listening to suburbanite whites who dominate EFY, come to feel a oneness with these other youth. Yet in the afterward we see that power to transform is limited. While we do have one of the black women who goes on to marry a return missionary (who is also white), we also have another one who has become a single mother although she had apparently at the time of her last meeting decided to go back to regularly attending Church. 

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One can also find links from either the Engisn or the Be One Page to stories of many of the Black pioneers of the LDS Church, those who so often waited long times for the realization of the blessings of the gospel. People like Victor Nugent in his family in Jamaica who for about two years after the American expatriate members who first tuaght them the gospel moved away, kept meeting each Sunday even though they could not even administer the sacrament. Or Joseph W. B. Johnson in Ghana who for years built up the Church, named his son Brigham, and waited on the Lord. He heard of the LDS Church coming to Liberia, but on going there realized it was the RLDS Church, and they did not have the true gospel. Brother Johnson lived in Accra, and occasionally members, such as Merril J. Bateman, visited. He one time when Brother Bateman was visiting told him that he was going to Cape Coast to prepare a people for the Lord. Brother Joshson had actively built up the Church for over 10 years by the time he was baptized in 1979. 


However that was not the end of the dark times. In 1989 the government of Ghana banned the Church. There is another story from a woman who had been part of one of the congregations started by Johnson. Her husband took a few years after 1979 and the arrival of missionaries in Ghana to join, he deeply distrusted white people. He was ordained to the priesthood by 1982. However she did not see her husband bless the sacrament until 1989. During the dark days of the freeze members were authorized to hold sacrament meetings in their homes. 


Most missionaries in Ghana when the freeze began were reeased. Many of these were Ghanaians, but any missionary activbity on the part of the Church was illegal. There was an exception. William B. J. Johnson and his wife served as missionaries. They went and met in the homes of members to strrengthen them thorugh the time of darkness. 


In late 1990 the ban on the Church was lifted by the government of Ghana. In June of 1991 in one day two stakes were organized in Ghana. One was in the capital and largest city of Accra. The other in Cape Coast, where Borther Johnson had prepared a people. Brother Johnson was the stake patriarch. When a temple was dedicated in Ghana by President Hinckley with Elder (now President) Nelson also participating in the ceremony in 2002, a temple the groundbreaking ceremony for which had been done by President Nelson, Brother Johnson was among those set apart as temple workers.



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35 minutes ago, BeccaKirstyn said:

What a beautiful celebration, I loved everything about it. 

As did I.  It was very well done.  I couldn't think of a single thing that was missing or out of place.  It's was very uplifting.

Edited by Grunt
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