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I was ten years-old and living in Cape Town, South Africa when the priesthood was restored to all worthy male members.  I remember Uncle Keith standing at the bottom of our stairs, a South African Abish, bearing the news that “they’ve done it, they’ve done it, they’ve gone and done it.”  I’m not sure whether he was happy or sad or astounded.  Perhaps all three.

The church’s stance on the priesthood dovetailed neatly with South Africa’s political theory of racial equality.  Only whites were allowed to vote, hold public office, and enjoy a myriad of other unrestrained daily activities.  This mirroring made the church attractive to some, as if providing a theological reinforcement of the political prohibitions at play in South Africa at the time.  The 1978 Declaration pulled the philosophical rug out from underneath what had been the theological/philosophical BarcaLounger of some committed South African Latter-day Saints. On the flipside, it opened wide the temple doors for other committed Latter-day Saints to move freely within the church and to approach, without impediment or reproach, the throne of God. 

Several months ago, after the changes (longed for, unexpected and utterly delightful) in the temple ceremony, I heard tell of an older sister seated in the Meridian Idaho temple. Unbeknownst to herself, she was in one of the very first sessions containing the changed ceremony.  At the first change, she flinched when corrected.  At the second change, she looked around bewildered.  At the third, she harumphed.  She became more and more agitated. By the last and final change, she let out a loud wail, “Noooooo . . . .“ 

I don’t miss one deleted word or act in the previous iterations of the ceremonies in the temple. I don’t miss the tension rising in me, the internal flinching that accompanied certain acts and words, the sense that what I was required to say and do did not accurately capture the Father I knew.  For me, the new words revealed relationships and orientations I always sensed to be there; closed distances between what I felt and what I was required to do.  One of my stumbling blocks has been removed.  

My experience (before and after) is not everybody’s.  For some, revelation breaks hearts.  Maybe wide open to let the light in. Maybe into pieces, which require tremendous courage to pick up and put back together again. Revelation can break us free from some beloved but extraneous principle or practice that actually acts as an impediment to our approaching our Father. Of the sculpting, it has been said:

It is the sculptor’s power, so often alluded to, of finding the perfect form and features of a goddess, in the shapeless block of marble; and his ability to chip off all extraneous matter, and let the divine excellence stand forth for itself. Thus, in every incident of business, in every accident of life, the poet sees something divine, and carefully scales off all that encumbers that divinity, and permits it to be revealed in all its transcendent loveliness.[1]

And so also is the revelator’s role.  To “scale off all that encumbers. . .divinity and permits it to be revealed in all its transcendent loveliness.”  To allow “the divine excellence [to] stand forth for itself.”  To remove the impediments that shackle the feet and hearts of those who seek the Father.  As a corollary, we are all asked to develop the flexible faith that allows us to live joyfully and patiently within the principle that “God will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”  Both those who wait and those who hold on tight.  


[1] 1858 January, The Methodist Quarterly Review, Whittier’s Poems, (Book Review of “The Poems of John Greenleaf Whittier), Start Page 72, Quote Page 78, Published by Carlton & Porter, New York. (Google Books Full View)