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The Articles of Faith and Official Declarations 1 and 2
We know that the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote the Articles of Faith as part of a larger request from Mr. John Wentworth, editor and proprietor of the Chicago Democrat, a brand-new newspaper in the young, bustling city of Chicago. The Democrat would be published for just seven years, from 1842 to 1849. Mr. Wentworth wanted a concise history of the fledgling Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and he wanted it written by its founder, Joseph Smith. The piece was also to be a part of the history of New Hampshire, being compiled by a Mr. George Barstow, a friend of John Wentworth. Joseph agreed to write the piece with this agreement: “As Mr. Barstow has taken the proper steps to obtain correct information, all that I shall ask at his hands is that he publish the account entire, ungarnished, and without misrepresentation.” Joseph carefully compiled the letter but it was never published in the newspaper or any history of New Hampshire. But this letter has become one of the great treasures of Church History.
Welcome to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me Podcast. We are Scot and Maurine Proctor and we are delighted to be with you again this week. We’ve entitled this lesson: A Great Question: What DO we believe? and this covers the Articles of Faith and Official Declarations 1 and 2.
Scot and I can’t get enough of Church History and the scriptures and that’s why we created The Kirtland Diary and the Come Follow Me Old Testament Calendar for this next year’s study. These beautiful products will be a treasure for you throughout the coming year as you record your thoughts, your ideas, your own personal insights and revelation and as you follow the lesson reading assignments week by week in the Old Testament. We sell these products because they help us pay for the continuing publishing of our 23-year habit of Meridian Magazine. Order yours today and enter the code word PODCAST and we will give you a whopping 45% off AND include flat rate shipping no matter how many copies you order. We’re just doing this for you, our Podcast audience. Order your Kirtland Diaries today at latterdaysaintmag.com/Kirtland and your Old Testament Calendars at latterdaysaintmag.com/2022. And thanks for your support. Don’t forget to use the discount code: PODCAST. These will make beautiful gifts that last the whole year long.
I’ve always loved the Articles of Faith. Haven’t you? Those of you who grew up in the Church, didn’t you memorize all 13 of them in primary? I had the wonderful privilege of having my angel mother, Martha Proctor, teach me these amazing lines of doctrinal teaching. I want us to explore a little background about the Articles of Faith and then talk about some of the doctrines they underline. I remember once, Maurine, when some of my classmates in Rolla, Missouri, during lunch time, questioned what I believed as a Mormon (as we called ourselves in those bygone days). You have to understand that in our little town of 11,320 people, there were fifty-four different religious denominations. Four or five of my evangelical friends asked me what we really believed—but it wasn’t in a “I’d really like to understand you and your religion better” kind of way. It was like, “You are bizarre and freaky and who are you anyway” sort of way—a complete view of ignorance. I said, “Well, first of all, We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” That kind of got their attention. They said, “Yeah, well we believe in them too.” I said, “I know you do and We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” They started staring at me, a little dumbfounded. I don’t think they really expected me to actually answer the question they had posed. They just wanted to create some contention. I continued, “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” Okay, they stopped questioning me and made body language like they were done. I caught them in their motions to move and said, “We also believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” I wish you could have seen their faces at this point. I understood for the first time what the words confounded and dumbfounded meant. They were speechless and started to leave, I told them I had plenty more to tell them, but they said, “thanks, but we understand now,” and they left. And they never questioned me again. These statements of pure truth and doctrine are powerful.
I love that story because these truly are salient, concise, perfect truths combined into powerful sentences and statements that teach our doctrines perfectly. And, if you look carefully at these 13 Articles of Faith, we see that Joseph covered these doctrines and teachings:
- The Godhead
- The Fall
- The Atonement
- The Saving Ordinances
- Priesthood Authority
- The Divine Organization of the Church
- Spiritual Gifts
- The Holy Canon of Scripture
- Continuing Revelation
- The Covenants made with Israel
- Religious Freedom
- Submission to Law
- The Godly Attributes
This is a lot of heavy material to put in just 411 words! And I think it’s interesting to understand that some articles of faith had been worked on and compiled by other leaders of the Church for eight years before Joseph published his. Oliver Cowdery made an attempt in 1834 and published them in the Messenger and Advocate. Oliver was known for his beautiful prose and eloquent language. Listen to Oliver’s approach to the doctrine of the Godhead:
“ We believe in God, and his Son Jesus Christ. We believe that God, from the beginning, revealed himself to man; and that whenever he has had a people on earth, he always has revealed himself to them by the Holy Ghost, the ministering of angels, or his own voice.
Of course, all of that is true and beautiful. But when Joseph was asked to give a short history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to talk about its beliefs, he had to be more concise and right to the point in all areas.
Well, and Maurine, that point is well taken when we read Orson Pratt’s article of faith on the Atonement in 1840. Listen to this and think about Primary children memorizing this one:
“ We believe, that through the sufferings, death, and atonement of Jesus Christ, all mankind, without one exception, are to be completely, and fully redeemed, both body and spirit from the endless banishment and curse, to which they were consigned, by Adam’s transgression. … After this full, complete, and universal redemption, restoration, and salvation of the whole of Adam’s race, through the atonement of Jesus Christ, without faith, repentance, baptism, or any other works, then, all and every one of them, will enjoy eternal life and happiness, never more to be banished from the presence of God, if they themselves have committed no sin. …” (Orson Pratt, Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Record, 1840) Try putting that one to primary music! Of course, if Janice Kapp Perry is listening, knowing her, I’m sure she could and it would become a favorite.
I think Elder B.H. Roberts (by the way, B.H. stands for Brigham Henry) summed it up wonderfully when he wrote about the Prophet Joseph’s Wentworth letter, of which the Articles of Faith were the final words: “The letter is one of the choicest documents in our church literature; as also it is the earliest published document by the Prophet personally, making any pretension to consecutive narrative of those events in which the great Latter-day work had its origin. … For combining conciseness of statement with comprehensiveness of treatment of the subject with which it deals, it has few equals among historical documents, and certainly none that excel it in our church literature.” (History of the Church, 4:535–41)
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, then of the Quorum of the Twelve, spoke at the Harvard Law School on February 26, 2010, said that “our Articles of Faith,” found at the end of the Wentworth Letter, remain today as “our only formal declaration of belief.”
“The impact of this sacred document lingers today.”
“President Thomas S. Monson wrote in the June 2011 Friend magazine about a man named Sharman Hummel, whom he worked with in the printing business.
“Mr. Hummel learned of the Church when he sat next to a girl on a bus and posed the question “What do you Mormons believe?” The girl recited the Articles of Faith.
“Mr. Hummel got off the bus, looked up the Church, and requested the missionaries come and teach him more. He joined the Church and now claims a large posterity of Latter-day Saints (Monson, Thomas S., “All Because a Child Knew the Articles of Faith,” The Friend, June 2011.)
Elder L. Tom Perry taught in his April 1998 general conference address that if members will use the Articles of Faith as a guide to direct their studies of the Savior’s doctrine, they will find themselves prepared to declare their witness of the restored, true Church of the Lord.
“The Articles of Faith were not the work of a team of scholars but were authored by a single, inspired man who declared comprehensively and concisely the essential doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Elder Perry said. “They contain direct and simple statements of the principles of our religion, and they constitute strong evidence of the divine inspiration that rested upon the Prophet Joseph Smith.
“I encourage each of you to study the Articles of Faith and the doctrines they teach. … If you will use them as a guide to direct your studies of the Savior’s doctrine, you will find yourselves prepared to declare your witness of the restored, true church of the Lord. You will be able to declare with conviction: ‘We believe these things’” (Perry, L. Tom, “The Articles of Faith,” General Conference, April 1998).
I just have to say one other thing about these amazing Articles of Faith. Over the years I interviewed hundreds of BYU kids for their Ecclesiastical Endorsement to be at BYU. The interview had a number of questions and was committing the students to live and act in exacting ways. Of course, I agreed with everything in the BYU Code of Honor. As I very prayerfully considered how I was to interview those precious students I received a wonderful answer. And this is how I did it:
I would first ask a little bit about them and about their background and a little bit about their family if I didn’t yet know them well. And then I said, “Could you please recite for me the 13th Article of Faith?” “The 13th?”, they would ask. “Yes, it starts with ‘We believe…” They would laugh nervously and then would say. “That’s the long one, right? I think I can. Let’s see, “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men;” then they would usually pause here and say, “Uhhh, indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report (and I usually had to prompt them to remember this last thing) or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” I would say, “Well done! Now, do you believe what you have just recited?” “Yes, I do.” “If you will live your life based on what you have just recited, this amazing 13th Article of Faith, I have no need to ask any more questions.” They would say, “I will.” And that was the interview. And we always felt the Spirit confirming this meeting. And you know, in all the years I did that I only had two students who needed help because they were converts in their late teens and didn’t memorize the Articles of Faith in their primary years. This was so inspiring to me!
We could certainly gladly talk about the Articles of Faith all day, but let’s use the 9th Article of Faith as a seg way into the next section of this podcast: “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” This is the definition of what President Russell M. Nelson calls “the ongoing Restoration.” Remember what President Nelson said, ““We’re witnesses to a process of restoration. If you think the Church has been fully restored, you’re just seeing the beginning. There is much more to come. … Wait till next year. And then the next year. Eat your vitamin pills. Get your rest. It’s going to be exciting.” I remember standing outside the White House with President Gordon B. Hinckley when he received the Medal of Freedom from then President George W. Bush. He was asked by the press something like, “Is this a great day for the Church, is this a pinnacle of achievement?” And he said, “Oh, we have only just begun to scratch the surface of this great work.”
Which reminds me of the context of the placement of the Articles of Faith in the Wentworth Letter, by the way. Do you want to know what comes immediately before the Articles of Faith? Listen:
“[T]he Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear; till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.” (Wentworth Letter, March 1, 1842, Times and Seasons, Nauvoo) And then the next sentence is:
We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost!
That is so great to see that placement and to think about the ongoing and unfolding Restoration. If you are a little rusty on the Articles of Faith from Primary days, or you have never memorized them, well, take it upon yourself to memorize all 13 of them, a total of 411 words. It will bless your life forever, I promise. I have a personal witness of the power of the Articles of Faith.
So, in the process of ongoing revelation let’s go back to the mid 1800’s and explore ever so briefly the growing Church in Utah in those early days and the importance of continuing revelation. Plural marriage was in full bloom. Many of the sisters and brethren in the Church were living “the principle.” One of them that we all know well, and whom Scot and I know especially well, was Parley Parker Pratt. Parley had 11 wives, ten of whom were living. Parley fathered 31 children. Now, all of us take a little Nephite pride in the number of our grandchildren, right? We see it all the time on the Church History tour. It’s kind of a badge of honor or something—at least it feels that way. We are swamped all the time by people who say they have 47 grandchildren and one recently said to us, “My mother had 11 children just like you guys and she had 78 grandchildren.” Sheesh. Well, sit down for a moment, because Parley P. Pratt had 264 grandchildren. And he was martyred before he even got to meet the very first one! That’s a lot of posterity! AND a tremendous loss for him to not get to know his grandchildren on this side of the veil.
It certainly is! And there were many others, George Q. Cannon had 43 children. Heber C. Kimball had 66 children. Brigham Young had 57. Wilford Woodruff had 34. Joseph F. Smith had 48. John Taylor 34. My own 2nd Great Grandfather, George Facer, had six wives and 29 children (and two of his wives bore no children!). This all makes sense from the Book of Mormon where the Lord said, “For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.” (Jacob 2:30) And the antecedent to “these things” is one man with one wife. (See Jacob 2:25-30)
Now, the Saints had been practicing plural marriage for almost 50 years. They were fairly isolated from the rest of the country as they lived in the Great Basin amongst the Rocky Mountains. And remember Deseret or Utah was a territory and had not obtained statehood yet. The Church of Jesus Christ was gaining converts and was growing in numbers and gaining national attention.
And in the meantime, laws were being enacted in the United States, including the Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act of 1882. Signed into law on March 23, 1882 by President Chester A. Arthur, the law declared polygamy a felony in all the federal territories of the United States, which included the Utah Territory. Enforcement of the act started as early as 1882 and in all, more than 1,300 men in Utah were imprisoned, including George Q. Cannon of the First Presidency and apostles Lorenzo Snow and Rudger Clawson. Elected officials in Utah vacated their offices because of their declared belief in polygamy.
In 1887 an amendment was passed, unsigned by the President, to the Edmunds Act to form the Edmunds-Tucker Act, specifically aimed at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- Disincorporated The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company, with assets to be used for public schools in the Territory.
- Required an anti-polygamy oath for prospective voters, jurors and public officials.
- Annulled territorial laws allowing illegitimate children to inherit.
- Required civil marriage licenses (to aid in the prosecution of polygamy).
- Abrogated the common law spousal privilege for polygamists, thus requiring wives to testify against their husbands.
- The act disenfranchised women (who had been enfranchised by the Territorial legislature in 1870), and also a number of other things.
This, of course, caused Church President Wilford Woodruff to be extremely prayerful about what to do. Would the Lord require the dismantling of the Kingdom by continuing to live plural marriage? President Woodruff issued the Official Manifesto in General Conference, read by President Lorenzo Snow, on September 24th, 1890. Polygamy, or plural marriage, by revelation, officially came to an end.
President Woodruff later stated in November 1891:
The question is this: Which is the wisest course for the Latter-day Saints to pursue—to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage, with the laws of the nation against it and the opposition of sixty millions of people, and at the cost of the confiscation and loss of all the Temples, and the stopping of all the ordinances therein, both for the living and the dead, and the imprisonment of the First Presidency and Twelve and the heads of families in the Church, and the confiscation of personal property of the people (all of which of themselves would stop the practice); or, after doing and suffering what we have through our adherence to this principle to cease the practice and submit to the law, and through doing so leave the Prophets, Apostles and fathers at home, so that they can instruct the people and attend to the duties of the Church, and also leave the Temples in the hands of the Saints, so that they can attend to the ordinances of the Gospel, both for the living and the dead?
President Woodruff continued:
“The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. If we had not stopped it, you would have had no use for … any of the men in this temple at Logan; for all ordinances would be stopped throughout the land of Zion. Confusion would reign throughout Israel, and many men would be made prisoners. This trouble would have come upon the whole Church, and we should have been compelled to stop the practice. Now, the question is, whether it should be stopped in this manner, or in the way the Lord has manifested to us, and leave our Prophets and Apostles and fathers free men, and the temples in the hands of the people, so that the dead may be redeemed. A large number has already been delivered from the prison house in the spirit world by this people, and shall the work go on or stop? This is the question I lay before the Latter-day Saints. You have to judge for yourselves. I want you to answer it for yourselves. I shall not answer it; but I say to you that that is exactly the condition we as a people would have been in had we not taken the course we have.
“… I saw exactly what would come to pass if there was not something done. I have had this spirit upon me for a long time. But I want to say this: I should have let all the temples go out of our hands; I should have gone to prison myself, and let every other man go there, had not the God of heaven commanded me to do what I did do; and when the hour came that I was commanded to do that, it was all clear to me. I went before the Lord, and I wrote what the Lord told me to write. …
“I leave this with you, for you to contemplate and consider. The Lord is at work with us. (Cache Stake Conference, Logan, Utah, Sunday, November 1, 1891. Reported in Deseret Weekly, November 14, 1891.)
And Maurine, this law that had been introduced quietly in Nauvoo in the early 1840’s and then publicly in Utah in 1850, was extremely hard to live, but the people had been living it for 50 years. These were husbands and wives and children who loved each other and were striving to keep the Lord’s commandments. And in those days, because this practice was in place, the Spirit of the Lord would testify to anyone who was asked to live it, that the practice was true and sanctioned by the God of Heaven. But when the Manifesto was issued in that fall General Conference of 1890, many of the Saints openly wept at this change. They loved their families. This would be a hard change for everyone and yet, it was what the Lord now required of His people. This is the Kingdom of God on the earth and there is continual and continuing revelation. The Lord had spoken and His people obeyed.
Now, let’s talk about how Official Declaration number 2 came about. This change brought universal joy and happiness in the Church. But it was slow, by our standards, in coming. We want to talk about it in some detail, mainly so you can see the careful process of revelation to the Prophet of God.
If you had already been born and were a member of the Church, June 9, 1978, you remember in vivid detail exactly where you were the minute you heard that President Spencer W. Kimball had received a revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy males.
Elder Marion D. Hanks, an emeritus General Authority who was there said, “Hallelujah. I thank God I lived long enough to see this day.”
Church historian, Leonard Arrington, said that within five minutes “my son Carl Wayne telephoned from New York City to say he had heard the news. I was in the midst of sobbing with gratitude for this answer to our prayers and could hardly speak with him. I was thrilled and electrified. I felt like the Prophet Joseph Smith said we should feel about the gospel: “A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth; glad tidings for the dead; a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joy.” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:19)
Rarely has news of an event spread faster than this one, taken the breath away of a people, most of whom had been long pained by the denial of the priesthood to those of African descent.
Newspapers delayed their editions to add the announcement. Time and Newsweek stopped their presses on their weekend editions. The New York Times made it a front-page story, and newspapers that had been neutral or hostile to the Church carried laudatory editorials. U.S. President Jimmy Carter commended President Spencer W. Kimball for “compassionate prayerfulness and courage.”
“All of us had the sense of discomfort at the continuing policy that kept good and honorable people from the blessings of their possibilities,” said Elder Hanks. “For 39 years I was a General Authority and had to find ways to respond to what was a troubling reality that there were those worthy and wonderful people who were not yet permitted to hold the priesthood. You can’t respond to questions about this for years, and know that the Lord tells us that he “esteemeth all flesh in one” (1 Nephi 17:35) and not look forward to a change.”
He remembers being on the top of a hill in Vietnam, long before the revelation, talking to a young black member of the Church who had just had his legs blown off, holding his hand and weeping. “All I could say to him is that one day there will be additional information on this subject, and when that happens the Lord will give it to the president of the Church.”
President Kimball had long been sensitive to this issue. For instance, in March 1976, he was present for the laying of the cornerstone of the Sao Paulo, Brazil temple and met Ruda and Helvecio Martins, devoted black members, converted in 1972. They had donated money and time to the temple, knowing full well that as things stood, they would not be receiving its blessings. The bank account, which they had carefully saved for their son’s mission, went to another young man who would be able to serve. Seeing their devotion–and many others like them–moved and grieved President Kimball.
President Kimball wasn’t the first prophet to ponder and pray over the exclusion policy of the priesthood. Other prophets had made
pronouncements to the effect that someday the priesthood would be made available to all worthy male members.
President Kimball had a long record of reaching out to people of many ethnicities. In his early years as an apostle, his assignment had been to the Indian nations, adding to his sensitivity.
Beginning in 1976 as the prophet, he began a systematic routine of praying, fasting and supplicating the Lord on this matter.
It was, then, with both keen desire, and awe and reverence for God, that he began his heart-felt petitions, not believing for a moment that the matter was merely in his hands to make a change.
The spring of 1978 found the First Presidency and the Twelve discussing the subject often in the upper rooms of the temple at their Thursday meetings.
According to Joseph Fielding McConkie, “President Kimball did not act in isolation on the matter. He freely sought the feelings of his counselors and the Quorum of the Twelve. In March of 1978 he invited any of the Twelve who desired to do so to make any expressions they desired to him in writing so that he could carefully consider them. Three members of that Quorum responded to this invitation, Elders Monson, Packer, and McConkie. Elder McConkie’s memo centered on the doctrinal basis for conferring the Melchizedek Priesthood on the Blacks. After the revelation was received, he freely shared with his family the scriptural chain of thought that he had suggested to President Kimball. The power of it was in its simplicity. He simply saw things in passages of scriptures that the rest of us had conditioned ourselves not to see.
Joseph McConkie continued: “Dad reasoned that inherent in any passage of scripture that promised that the gospel would go to all mankind was the promise that it–with all its blessings-must go to the Blacks. The Third Article of Faith, for instance, states that we believe that through the atonement of Christ ‘all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel’ (italics added.) The word saved as used in this text, he said, meant to be exalted or obtain all the blessings of the celestial kingdom. To illustrate this point he quoted D&C 6:13, ‘If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation,’ and Joseph Smith’s statement that ‘Salvation consists in the glory, authority, majesty power and dominion which Jehovah possesses and in nothing else.’ (Lectures on Faith, 7:9; Italics added.)
“He also reminded us that all those who accept the gospel become the seed of the family of Abraham and are entitled to all of the blessings of the gospel. Jehovah told Abraham that his seed would take the gospel and the ‘Priesthood unto all nations,’ and that ‘as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father.’ This, of course, is the matter of being adopted into the house of Israel.
“Jehovah also promised Abraham that when his literal seed took the message of salvation to ‘all nations,’ that then ‘shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.’ (Abraham. 2:9-11.)
“In his funeral address for Elder McConkie, Elder Packer observed that ‘President Kimball has spoken in public of his gratitude to Elder McConkie for some special support he received in the days leading up to the revelation on the Priesthood.’ It would be hard to suppose that that ‘special help’ did not include the assurance of his gospel understanding as found in the doctrinal analysis just reviewed.
“President Kimball described his own process of seeking revelation this way: “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 was 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 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 spectacularly moving. We want only the thing that thou dost want, and we want it when you want it and not until.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley said in an October 1988 Ensign, “I was not present when John the Baptist conferred the Aaronic Priesthood. I was not present when Peter, James, and John conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood. But I was present and was a participant and a witness to what occurred on Thursday, June 1, 1978. My memory is clear concerning the events of that day.
“Each first Thursday of the month is a day for fasting and the bearing of testimony by the General Authorities of the Church. So many of the Brethren are absent from home on the first Sunday of the month because of assignments to stake conferences that we hold our monthly testimony meeting in an upper room of the Salt Lake Temple the first Thursday of the month. The Thursday of which I speak was June 1, 1978. We heard testimonies from some of the brethren, and we partook of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
“It was a wonderfully spiritual meeting, as are all such meetings in these holy precincts and under these circumstances. Then the members of the First Quorum of the Seventy and the Presiding Bishopric were excused, while there remained the president of the Church, his two Counselors, and ten members of the Council of the Twelve-two being absent, one in South America and the other in the hospital.
President Hinckley continued: “The question of extending the blessings of the priesthood to blacks had been on the minds of many of the Brethren over a period of years. It had repeatedly been brought up by Presidents of the Church. It had become a matter of particular concern to President Spencer W. Kimball.
“Over a considerable period of time he had prayed concerning this serious and difficult question. He had spent many hours in that upper room in the temple by himself in prayer and meditation.
“On this occasion he raised the question before his Brethren—his Counselors and the Apostles. Following this discussion, we joined in prayer in the most sacred of circumstances. President Kimball himself was voice in that prayer. I do not recall the exact words that he spoke. But I do recall my own feelings and the nature of the expressions of my Brethren. 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. The Spirit of God was there. And by the power of the Holy Ghost there came to that prophet an assurance that the thing for which he prayed was right, that the time had come, and that now the wondrous blessings of the priesthood should be extended to worthy men everywhere regardless of lineage.
“Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing.
“It was a quiet and sublime occasion.
“There was not the sound “as of a rushing mighty wind,” there were not “cloven tongues like as of fire” (Acts 2:2-3) as there had been on the Day of Pentecost. But there was a Pentecostal spirit, for the Holy Ghost was there.
“No voice audible to our physical ears was heard. But the voice of the Spirit whispered with certainty into our minds and our very souls.
“It was for us, at least for me personally, as I imagine it was with Enos, who said concerning his remarkable experience, “And while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind.” (Enos 1:10.)
“So it was on that memorable June 1, 1978. We left that meeting subdued and reverent and joyful. 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.”
Leonard Arrington, who interviewed many of those present said, “At the end of the heavenly manifestation [President] Kimball, weeping for joy, confronted the church members, many of them also sobbing, and asked if they sustained this heavenly instruction. Embracing, all nodded vigorously and jubilantly their sanction. There had been a startling and commanding revelation from God-an ineffable experience.”
Those Arrington interviewed said, “the gathering, incredible and without compare, was the greatest singular event of their lives. Those I talked with wept as they spoke of it. All were certain they had witnessed a revelation from God.”
An official announcement of the revelation, dated June 8, 1978, was announced to the press the next day, on June 9. Arrington wrote, “Here was indisputable evidence of God’s presence and direction in these latter days-divine reaffirmation of the faith and values of our church.” It read:
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 extend to every worthy member of the Church all of the privileges and blessings 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 these, 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 therefrom, 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 the 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.
Spencer W. Kimball
N. Eldon Tanner
Marion G. Romney
The First Presidency
In an interesting note, Scot, when I interviewed Camilla Kimball for a video on her life, as you know, she explained her experience of the event. She said she had known that Spencer had been troubled and concerned for some time over a matter that absorbed him. She remembered that one day as they were returning from the Salt Lake airport, he had asked to be let off at the temple because he wanted to spend some time in meditation and prayer. She did not know about the revelation on the priesthood until after her daughter, who had heard the announcement on television, called her on the morning of June 9. President Kimball was a man who could keep confidences.
I love this intimate view of the process of revelation in the Church at the highest level. Now, I remember when we interviewed William (Billy) Johnson in Ghana, a man who heard about the Church in 1964 and had 10 congregations of faithful Ghanaians ready for baptism as soon as they could get missionaries. He told us, “We used to sing Come, Come Ye Saints in our meetings and with tears in our eyes we would cry, “When will our brothers from the West come for us?” They finally did come!
Those congregations and others have grown exponentially. Ghana now has 89,000 members, 25 stakes, 328 congregations, 4 missions, 53 family history centers and 1 temple! Nigeria has 192,000 members, 59 stakes, 722 congregations, 7 missions, 70 family history centers and 1 temple. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has 69,000 members in 23 stakes, 211 congregations, 4 missions, 24 family history centers and 1 temple! The list goes on and on—and this is just the growth since the Church officially came into West Africa in late 1978!
When I stood next to William (Billy) Johnson going into the Temple dedication in Accra, he told me he had spent all night prostrate upon the floor in a prayer of gratitude to the Lord for bringing the Temple to them. What faith and humility and gratitude! But even more impressive was when I walked out of the Temple with Brother Johnson, one of the most amazing people we have ever met in all the world, he told me that during the singing of The Spirit of God he was given to see a vision of the hosts of the Ghanaian dead. “They were all there, led by their tribal chiefs in all their full royal dress and they had come to have their work done for them!”
This is the faith of a people who had waited so long to have the full blessings of the Gospel and now these blessings are freely extended to all on both sides of the veil.
That’s all for today. These are marvelous truths and a perfect view of continuing revelation in this, The Church of Jesus Christ. We’ve loved being with you. Next week our lesson will be on: The Family: A Proclamation to the World. We’re grateful to Paul Cardall for the music and to our daughter, Michaela Proctor Hutchins for producing this show. Have a wonderful, joyous week and see you next time.