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The following was written by Keith Hamilton.
I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in August 1980, a week or so before the start of my last year of college at NC State. Two missionaries “tracted” me at my off-campus residence and two weeks later I got baptized. I chose to become a member of the LDS faith following a divine response to my sincere prayer, and because of the truthfulness of the Church’s doctrine, but certainly not because of any social or cultural benefit or advantage I expected to gain. Three hundred sixty-eight days after my baptism, I entered the MTC to begin my mission. Two years after that, in August 1983, I began law school as J. Reuben Clark Law School’s first black attendee. I became its first black graduate in 1986, and three years later (July 1989), I was ordained as bishop of the Bay Ward of the San Francisco California Stake, by then–Stake President Quentin L. Cook.
It was as a newly called bishop that I first learned of many of the rationales and myths put forth by LDS commentators and others regarding the Church’s historical relationship with blacks—namely its pre-1978 ban against black males receiving the priesthood and all blacks receiving the exalting ordinances available in the temple.
One time, two white, middle-aged sisters in the ward came to me with serious concern about the ways they perceived blacks had been treated by the Church. In an attempt to address their concerns, I researched the issues as best I could, which led me to an abundance of information. Some of it defended the Church, while other things I read severely criticized the Church and its leaders.
Over the years I gathered more and more information, and as I digested and pondered what I read, I often felt a spiritual emptiness or outright offensiveness to my spirit. Scripture study, more ponderings, and intense personal prayer led me to conclude that most of the commentary on both sides of the issue centered around a historical perspective or view toward the issues, which focused on how God’s children treated each other, or on what one of His children had said regarding the issue. It occurred to me that this approach might not be the more excellent way, particularly regarding the priesthood ban, since the priesthood is God’s, not man’s. I felt prompted to consider looking at the ban, and the lifting of the ban in 1978, from the perspective of how God has dealt and continues to deal with His children generally, and in particular, how He had apportioned the “right” of the priesthood in dispensations prior to our current one.
This provided me the foundation of true principles, which have developed into a sure testimony that allows me to distinguish, through the workings of the Holy Ghost, truth from error and fact from folklore. It has also permitted me the ability to recognize the sublime yet tremendous impact the 1978 revelation on priesthood had on the Church and on all God’s children, black or non-black, LDS or otherwise.