“The long-promised day has come”

Official Declaration 1 has some supplementary materials included in the Doctrine and Covenants in the form of three excerpts from different addresses where he explained the reasoning for the change.  I’ve often mused on the idea of what would an analogous set of supplementary quotes look like for Official Declaration 2.  At one point, I even created my own insert in my scriptures to fill that function.  Admittedly, the addition of an introduction to the section in 2013 provides the key information, but I enjoy playing with hypotheticals for updates to the scriptures, so what would I include if I were to prepare the additions for the declaration?  And, while I’m sharing in the post, I’d be interested in hearing folks’ thoughts about what they would or would not include and their thoughts about my selections as well.

My version would probably look something like this:

EXCEPRTS FROM THREE STATEMENTS REGARDING THE PRIESTHOOD REVELATION

We have revelations that tell us that the gospel is to go to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people before the Second Coming of the Son of Man. And we have revelations which recite that when the Lord comes he will find those who speak every tongue and are members of every nation and kindred, who will be kings and priests, who will live and reign on earth with him a thousand years. That means, as you know, that people from all nations will have the blessings of the house of the Lord before the Second Coming.

We have read these passages and their associated passages for many years. We have seen what the words say and have said to ourselves, “Yes, it says that, but we must read out of it the taking of the gospel and the blessings of the temple to [individuals of black African ancestry], because they are denied certain things.” There are statements in our literature by the early Brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the [individuals of black African ancestry] would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, “You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?” And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.

We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more.

It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the … matter before the first day of June of this year, 1978. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them. …

On the first day of June in this year, 1978, the First Presidency and the Twelve, after full discussion of the proposition and all the premises and principles that are involved, importuned the Lord for a revelation. President Kimball was mouth, and he prayed with great faith and great fervor; this was one of those occasions when an inspired prayer was offered. … He prayed by the power of the Spirit, and there was perfect unity, total and complete harmony, between the Presidency and the Twelve on the issue involved.

And when President Kimball finished his prayer, the Lord gave a revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost. … On this occasion, because of the importuning and the faith, and because the hour and the time had arrived, the Lord in his providences poured out the Holy Ghost upon the First Presidency and the Twelve in a miraculous and marvelous manner, beyond anything that any then present had ever experienced. The revelation came to the president of the Church; it also came to each individual present. There were ten members of the Council of the Twelve and three of the First Presidency there assembled. The result was that President Kimball knew, and each one of us knew, independent of any other person, by direct and personal revelation to us, that the time had now come to extend the gospel and all its blessings and all its obligations, including the priesthood and the blessings of the house of the Lord, to those of every nation, culture, and race, including the black race. There was no question whatsoever as to what happened or as to the word and message that came. (Bruce R. McConkie, “All Are Alike unto God,” speech given at Brigham Young University, August 18, 1978.)

 

If you read the scriptures with this question in mind, ‘Why did the Lord command this or why did he command that,’ you will find that in less than one in a hundred commandments was any reason given.  It’s not the pattern of the Lord to give reasons.  We [mortals] can put reasons to revelation.  We can put reasons to commandments.  When we do, we’re on our own.  Some people put reasons to the one we’re talking about here, and they turned out to be spectacularly wrong.  There is a lesson in that. … I decided a long time ago that I had faith in the command and I had no faith in the reasons that had been suggested for it. …

I’m referring to reasons given by general authorities and reasons elaborated upon … by others.  The whole set of reasons seemed to me to be unnecessary risk taking. … Let’s don’t make the mistake that’s been made in the past, here and in other areas, trying to put reasons to revelation.  The reasons turn out to be man-made to a great extent.  The revelations are what we sustain as the will of the Lord and that’s where safety lies.” (Dallin H. Oaks, cited in “Apostles Talk about Reasons for Lifting Ban,” Daily Herald, Provo, Utah [5 June 1988]: 21 [Associated Press]; reproduced with commentary in Dallin H. Oaks, Life’s Lessons Learned: Personal Reflections [Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 2011], 68-69.)

 

In theology and practice, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embraces the universal human family. Latter-day Saint scripture and teachings affirm that God loves all of His children and makes salvation available to all. God created the many diverse races and ethnicities and esteems them all equally. As the Book of Mormon puts it, “all are alike unto God.” …

Despite this …, for much of its history—from the mid-1800s until 1978—the Church did not ordain men of black African descent to its priesthood or allow black men or women to participate in temple endowment or sealing ordinances.

The Church was established in 1830, during an era of great racial division in the United States. At the time, many people of African descent lived in slavery, and racial distinctions and prejudice were not just common but customary among white Americans. Those realities, though unfamiliar and disturbing today, influenced all aspects of people’s lives, including their religion. Many Christian churches of that era, for instance, were segregated along racial lines. From the beginnings of the Church, people of every race and ethnicity could be baptized and received as members. Toward the end of his life, Church founder Joseph Smith openly opposed slavery. There has never been a Churchwide policy of segregated congregations.

During the first two decades of the Church’s existence, a few black men were ordained to the priesthood. One of these men, Elijah Abel, also participated in temple ceremonies in Kirtland, Ohio, and was later baptized as proxy for deceased relatives in Nauvoo, Illinois. There is no reliable evidence that any black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. In a private Church council three years after Joseph Smith’s death, Brigham Young praised Q. Walker Lewis, a black man who had been ordained to the priesthood, saying, “We have one of the best Elders, an African.”

In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood, though thereafter blacks continued to join the Church through baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Following the death of Brigham Young, subsequent Church presidents restricted blacks from receiving the temple endowment or being married in the temple. Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church. …

Church leaders pondered promises made by prophets such as Brigham Young that black members would one day receive priesthood and temple blessings. In June 1978, after “spending many hours in the Upper Room of the [Salt Lake] Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance,” Church President Spencer W. Kimball, his counselors in the First Presidency, and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles received a revelation. “He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come,” the First Presidency announced on June 8. The First Presidency stated that they were “aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us” that “all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood.” The revelation rescinded the restriction on priesthood ordination. It also extended the blessings of the temple to all worthy Latter-day Saints, men and women. The First Presidency statement regarding the revelation was canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants as Official Declaration 2.

This “revelation on the priesthood,” as it is commonly known in the Church, was a landmark revelation and a historic event. Those who were present at the time described it in reverent terms. Gordon B. Hinckley, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, remembered it this way: “There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room. For me, it felt as if a conduit opened between the heavenly throne and the kneeling, pleading prophet of God who was joined by his Brethren. … Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing. … Not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that. Nor has the Church been quite the same.” …

Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.

Since that day in 1978, the Church has looked to the future, as membership among Africans, African Americans and others of African descent has continued to grow rapidly. (“Race and the Priesthood,” Gospel Topics Essay, churchofjesuschrist.org.)

18 comments for ““The long-promised day has come”

  1. We have seen what the words say and have said to ourselves, “Yes, it says that, but…

    It is a remarkable thing that Bruce R. McConkie, of all people, essentially confessed (on behalf of both himself and the Church) to having ignored the plain language of the scriptures. And in how many ways do we continue doing so?

  2. Geoff, I think the church has (of late) gone to great pains in its efforts to express what it’s *for* rather than what it’s against. Even so, some folks will feel marginalized by some of the church’s foundational teachings–however graciously they may be presented. That’s not to say that there’s no room for improvement in the way that we interact with those who feel marginalized–we need to do better. but sometimes–even after we’ve put forth our best efforts to be understanding and compassionate–our foundational claims will be received (by some) as discriminatory.

  3. Jack: “Even so, some folks will feel marginalized by some of the church’s foundational teachings–however graciously they may be presented.”

    I’d like to think that foundationality is in the eye of the beholder. I’m sure that many 19th and 20th century church members saw racism as foundational, just as many current members see genderism. I look forward to OD3.

  4. Jack, Has there been a revelation saying no to gay marriage, or ordination for women? I have not heard of either.

    I believe the church would be much better with both, and as I believe heavenly mother is a God (priesthood position ) I believe she does too.

    So, like the priesthood ban, the culture of the times that we now regret. Not foundational!

  5. For Bruce R McConkie’s consideration:

    Jeremiah 23:

    23 Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off?

    24 Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.

    25 I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed.

    26 How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart;

    27 Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal.

    28 The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord.

    37 Thus shalt thou say to the prophet, What hath the Lord answered thee? and, What hath the Lord spoken?

  6. Whilst the church has gone to some lengths to repair this erroneous ban, I do find the rhetoric of healing problematic. The recent celebration with our black brothers and sisters with the strap line of “that they may be one” troubled me. This would indicate that for over 100 years we weren’t “one” as a faith. If we were not “one” then (the scripture strongly indicates) we were not His.
    I think the term was ill advised and it brings up more questions than answers.

  7. Our cousin-organization, The Community of Christ, opened the priesthood to women in 1985. I am not certain of the year, but I think it was that year. Today, 36 years on, nearly half of the 12 apostles in that church are female. In 1978, we opened the priesthood to men with black African descent. Today, 43 years on, exactly zero men of black African descent are or have been called as apostles. Today more than 85 men have been called to that high office. None are or were black. Why does God love white men so much?

  8. Chad, so far as I can tell your posts are typically well thought out and charitable. But looking again at your post on section 132 I don’t see any challenge of the prevailing secular doctrines regarding marriage and family. There’s a sort of latent assumption (in your post) that the world has got it right–and that’s what seems to inform your concerns and criticisms of the doctrines and expectations in question.

    IMO, there are far more positive and productive ways to explore those questions–ways that would instill hope for the future rather than dread because of a jaundiced view grown from the academy’s sociological doctrines and values.

  9. Most of us are following this thread more at this point, so I’m going to say that your response is fine Jack (and I really appreciate your willingness to continue discussing), and walk the conversation back to a point when Geoff wasn’t getting into more personal finger pointing.

    But, I’m afraid you may need to be more specific, Jack. The world and academia are not monolithic in their ideas about marriage and family, so I’m not sure which ones I’m not challenging that you think I’m supposed to challenge vs ones that I see myself as standing for or against. I can guess based on the discussion (women and the priesthood and then acceptance of LGTBQ community based on Geoff’s comment you responded to), but the other post does cover a decent amount of territory.

    In any case, the main thing I was trying to point out by bringing up that post was that there are more than one way to look at doctrines that can be treated as legitimate within the Church. I personally feel like we don’t know enough about life outside of mortality to pass judgements on some things that we have a tenancy to feel overconfident on.

  10. Also, could you give some examples of the more positive and productive ways to explore those questions you have in mind?

  11. First off, I should say that I’m probably the least educated here–so I don’t want to come across as thinking that I know more than I really do.

    Re: Academia: that’s a big world–and I’ve no doubt that I’m quite naive with regard to certain aspects of it. But even so, I think it’s fair to say that those disciplines having to do with human behavior and sociology and whatnot tend be driven by an approach that’s rather mechanistic when compared to how the gospel informs us about human nature. And as such, those two approaches are generally quite antithetical to each other–though not in every instance.

    So as I see it, mechanism–which is really a child of materialism–in human behavior seems to serve as a foundational precept of sorts for some of our most difficult sociological questions–those having to do with sex and gender, marriage and family, and so forth. And what concerns me most–even more than the confusion that approach creates in the world–is the bewilderment it causes in the minds and hearts of so many in the church.

    And so I guess what I’m saying is–I fear that we’re getting to the point where we don’t question mechanism anymore–not even in the church. And I’d like to see us take a big step backwards and question our assumptions about the foundational teachings of the church regarding marriage and family. I’d like to us be willing to “unlearn” a few things if need be in order to receive those teachings on their own terms rather than filtering them through a mechanistic lens.

  12. Chad, before I continue let me thank you for your kindness–and you’re willingness to hear me out.

    Re: Positive and productive ways to explore those questions:

    First off, I think we should begin with the assumption that God loves his children. And because of his perfect love for us there should be no question in our minds that he seeks our ultimate happiness. And so, if we look forward dreading our future among the elect then there’s probably something wrong with our perception of that future rather than the what the Lord truly has in store for us.

    Secondly, I think we would do well to rethink our approach to hierarchy. Our culture has a lot of difficulty with hierarchies–we know they’re necessary in some contexts but we don’t know how to deal with the moral questions surrounding them. I’m of the opinion that heavenly hierarchy has to do with establishing an order that enables us to navigate sacred space. Ultimately, IMO, it has nothing to do with controlling people and everything to do with empowering them.

    I could say more–but those are the first two ideas that come to mind.

  13. Those are probably fair critiques about mechanistic views. I’m professionally trained as a biological engineer, so I’ve been immersed in a world where I am constantly seeking to understand the underlying mechanisms of things and then figuring out how to best harness and use that information for well over a decade. That’s a pretty mechanistic world to live in, haha. By this point, to be honest, I struggle to see things in a different way, though I appreciate conversations where other people can share a different way of understanding things so I can consider where my thinking is probably wrong, even if I ultimately may still not agree with them (which is why I appreciate talking about it here with you, Jack).

    And, this may be interesting to say, but I completely agree with what you said when you wrote that:

    “I think we should begin with the assumption that God loves his children. And because of his perfect love for us there should be no question in our minds that he seeks our ultimate happiness. And so, if we look forward dreading our future among the elect then there’s probably something wrong with our perception of that future rather than the what the Lord truly has in store for us.”

    I just think we take the route to fixing our perceptive down different roads.

    For me, a heaven that centers on women bearing children constantly to glorify their husbands (which is what I see as underlying the tradition we’ve envisioned in the Church) only sounds like heaven for straight men. Since I believe that God loves His children and He seeks their happiness, and straight men are a minority in the human population, I conclude that heaven may be different than we imagine, so I’ve more been musing on what that might be like instead. But, I have no claims to special insights there, so for now, I’m holding open possibilities in my mind and holding to my faith that things will be good in eternity. I suppose a relevant question for you, Jack, is what do you envisioned heaven being like?

  14. Ouch! Don’t take my criticism of mechanism in the “soft” sciences as a criticism of mechanistic approaches in general. There’s really no other way to do the work that the “hard” sciences require. LOL–I didn’t know who I was dealing with when I overconfidently said my piece about mechanism.

    Re: What do I envision heaven being like?

    Two things come to mind–and they’re both in capsulated in one statement by Joseph Smith wherein he says (roughly) that the same sociality will exist among us there that we enjoy here only it will be coupled with eternal glory. I think the first part of that statement kinda speaks for itself since we have an understanding of what that sociality entails through our interactions with each other here in mortality. And so it seems like there will be some continuation of what we do here–or an overlapping of those things with what we do there.

    So with that first part of JS’s statement in mind I’m led to think about what it is in this world that brings us maximum joy and fulfillment–and for me the answer to that question centers on happiness in our homes and families. Now I’m speaking in general terms here; of course there will always be exceptions when we get down into the trenches with individual difficulties and whatnot. But generally speaking, I think humanity tends to find more joy (and pain on the flipside) through the building and nurturing of families than through any other activity.

    And so my sense is that, inasmuch as we’re here to learn vital lessons that are calculated to prepare us to experience an even greater degree of joy in the world to come, family will be central to the purpose and meaning of our existence there–as it is here–but perhaps to a much greater degree than most of us have imagined.

    And that brings me to the second part of JS’s statement. IMO, when he speaks of eternal glory he is dutifully guarding the mysteries of the Kingdom. In other words, there is more in that statement than we able to unpack with our limited understanding of things. There’s more to being like God than we can comprehend in our lowly mortal condition. And that which we might comprehend could very well be too difficult for many of us to receive at this time.

    And so what we have here (IMO) is something that is both concrete and elusive at the same time. IMO, the happiness that may be experienced in home and family serves as a clear analogue to our joyful existence in the future. But there is, oh, so much more to that existence than there rudimentary elements of providing and homemaking–as important as those elements are.

    And speaking of those basic elements–I find it very interesting that our homes, at least in most developed countries, are patterned after the temple. I won’t go into the specific correlations here –but let my just say that I believe that correspondence to be a natural outgrowth of our being designed–both male and female–to participate in the great plan of Life. It’s the most natural thing in the world for us to do–so long as we don’t get distracted from it by other, lesser pursuits.

  15. Oh, no worries on the mechanistic comment. More what I was saying is that I’m so used to it that I do tend to take it as a part of my approach to most things, even outside of my field.

    I can see why you felt that my view that I expressed about the afterlife was jaundiced. If it is just an extension of my current family life, then it’s something I’m comfortable and happy with. I guess I was more caught up in the cosmic scale, the “kingdom fever” that 19th century Latter-day Saints sometimes expressed based on the idea of the more people you had sealed to you the more glory you will have, and gender politics.

    As far as being patterned after temples, while I like the thought in seriousness, I feel like I should make a joke about hoping we don’t follow the cue of discontinuing cafeterias at home like they did at the temple.

  16. Yes–I hope there’s still a dinner table of sorts to gather around. :D

    Yeah–earlier views of the afterlife can seem a bit goofy to our modern sensibilities–like getting a planet of your own and whatnot. Even so, I have to remind myself that the saints of the 19th century lived in a world that was very different from ours. It took them three months to make the trek from the Mississippi to Salt Lake Valley. Today we make that same trip in 3 *hours* on a Boeing 777. So even though they understood that they the earth was a whirling orb–it was still large enough (in their minds) to comprise a division of the sacred cosmos. So to vis-a-vis sealings and the continuation of familial connections and so forth. To them it was an uber-progressive way of thinking about the future.

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