The Priesthood Extended to All Races
Perhaps few events have had a greater impact on the worldwide spread of the gospel than did the 1978 revelation received through President Spencer W. Kimball extending the priesthood to worthy males of all races. For some time, the General Authorities had discussed this topic at length in their regular temple meetings. In addition, President Kimball went frequently to the temple, especially on Saturdays and Sundays when he could be there alone, to plead for guidance. “I wanted to be sure,” he explained. 13
On 1 June 1978 President Kimball met with his counselors and the Twelve and again brought up the possibility of conferring the priesthood upon worthy brethren of all races. He expressed the hope that there might be a clear answer received one way or the other. Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve recalled, “At this point President Kimball asked the brethren if any of them desired to express their feelings and views as to the matter in hand. We all did so, freely and fluently and at considerable length, each person stating his views and manifesting the feelings of his heart. There was a marvelous outpouring of unity, oneness, and agreement in the council.” 14
After a two-hour discussion, President Kimball asked the group to unite in formal prayer and modestly suggested that he act as voice. He recalled:
“I told the Lord if it wasn’t right, if He didn’t want this change to come in the Church that I would be true to it all the rest of my life, and I’d fight the world against it if that’s what He wanted.
“. . . But this revelation and assurance came to me so clearly that there was no question about it.” 15
President Gordon B. Hinckley was at the historic meeting. He remembered: “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. . . .
“Tremendous, eternal consequences for millions over the earth are flowing from that manifestation. . . .
“. . . This has opened great areas of the world to the teaching of the everlasting gospel. This has made it possible that ‘every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world.’
“We have cause to rejoice and to praise the God of our salvation that we have seen this glorious day.” 16
Brother Anthony Obinna, a convert in Nigeria who had prayerfully waited for baptism for thirteen years, wrote to President Kimball after hearing about the revelation:
“We are happy for the many hours in the upper room of the temple you spent supplicating the Lord to bring us into the fold. We thank our Heavenly Father for hearing your prayers and ours and by revelation [confirming] the long promised day . . . to receive every blessing of the gospel.” 17
Only five months after the revelation came, two experienced couples were sent to open missionary work in the black African nations of Nigeria and Ghana. “In black Africa . . . the revelation on the priesthood was, in effect, the restoration of the gospel for them. . . . Within one year there were more than 1,700 members in 35 branches in West Africa.” 18
“After only nine and a half years of missionary work, Elder Neal A. Maxwell organized the Aba Nigeria Stake on May 15, 1988—the first stake in which all priesthood leaders were black—and he noted that this was ‘a historic day in the Church in this dispensation . . .’ (in ‘Nigerian Stake,’ Church News, 21 May 1988, p. 7).” 19
When one considers how many people were “affected by this revelation—which includes millions on the earth and billions on the other side of the veil—we can see why President Kimball said that it brought ‘one of the greatest changes and blessings that has ever been known’ [ Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 451].” 20
Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual
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Gordon B. Hinckley:
After the monthly temple meeting of the General Authorities, President Kimball excused all present except his counselors and the Twelve and then raised a subject that had been discussed repeatedly during preceding months – that of conferring the priesthood on worthy males of all races. After inviting a lengthy discussion of the issue, acknowledgin how he had worried over this matter and how vigourously he had pleaded with the Lord for direction, President Kimball led out in prayer. Elder Hinckley recorded his impressions of the experience: “There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room. For me, it was as if a conduit had 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…No voice audible to our physical ears was hear. But the voice of the Spirit whispered with certainty into our minds and our very souls…Not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that.”
Ensign, Oct 1998, p. 70
Though electrifying and intensely spiritual, the day’s events did not come as a great surprise to Elder Hinckley. ‘Not only had President Kimbal agonized over this situation, but President Lee and President McKay had before him,” he later explained. It was, however, a wonderful development. President Kimball was bold in petitioning the Lord for this revelation. He wrestled over it. He worked at it. He went to the Lord again and again. And when the reveleation came, there was among the Twelve a tremendous feeling of gratitude for this unspeakable blessing.”
[Interview with GBH, 9 Aug 1995, quoted in The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley]