Revelation on the Priesthood

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

15. “‘News’ Interviews Prophet,” p. 4.

16. “Priesthood Restoration,” Ensign, Oct. 1988, pp. 70–71

Priesthood pg. 126-137 [McConkie]

“When we [the brethren] were alone by ourselves in that sacred place where we meet weekly to wait upon the Lord, to seek guidance from his Spirit, and to transact the affairs of his earthly kingdom, President Kimball brought up the matter of the possible conferral of the priesthood upon those of all races. This was a subject that the group of us had discussed at length on numerous occasions in the preceding weeks and months. The President restated the problem involved, reminded us of our prior discussions, and said he had spent many days alone in this upper room pleading with the Lord for an answer to our prayers. He said that if the answer was to continue our present course of denying the priesthood to the seed of Cain, as the Lord had theretofore directed, he was prepared to defend that decision to the death. But, he said, if the long-sought day had come in which the curse of the past was to be removed, he thought we might prevail upon the Lord so to indicate. He expressed the hope that we might receive a clear answer one way or the other so the matter might be laid to rest…”

Revelation on Priesthood Accepted,
Church Officers Sustained

President N. Eldon Tanner
First Counselor in the First Presidency

N. Eldon Tanner, “Revelation on Priesthood Accepted, Church Officers Sustained,” Ensign, Nov 1978, 16

In early June of this year, the First Presidency announced that a revelation had been received by President Spencer W. Kimball extending priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church. President Kimball has asked that I advise the conference that after he had received this revelation, which came to him after extended meditation and prayer in the sacred rooms of the holy temple, he presented it to his counselors, who accepted it and approved it. It was then presented to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who unanimously approved it, and was subsequently presented to all other General Authorities, who likewise approved it unanimously.

President Kimball has asked that I now read this letter:

“June 8, 1978

“To all general and local priesthood officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the world:

“Dear Brethren:

“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.

  • “Sincerely yours,
  • “Spencer W. Kimball
  • “N. Eldon Tanner
  • “Marion G. Romney
  • “The First Presidency”

Recognizing Spencer W. Kimball as a prophet, seer, and revelator, and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is proposed that we as a constituent assembly accept this revelation as the word and will of the Lord. All in favor please signify by raising your right hand. Any opposed by the same sign.

President Kimball, it appears that the vote has been unanimous in the affirmative, and the motion has carried.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Excerpt from Spencer W. Kimball, Resolute Disciple, Prophet of God

Excerpt from
Spencer W. Kimball, Resolute Disciple, Prophet of God
by Francis M. Gibbons
Chapter 22

Almost every working day of the 12 years during which Spencer W. Kimball was president of the Church, Francis M. Gibbons saw and worked with him closely. From this unique perspective, he has written this fresh and insightful biography of a quiet but profoundly beloved and faithful man.

“Shortly after the October general conference, President Kimball was distressed when he was served with a subpoena to give a deposition in a case brought by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People against the Boy Scouts of America and Troop 58, organized in one of the wards of the Liberty Stake in Salt Lake City. There were two black Scouts in the troop. One of them complained to the black ombudsman for Utah because he was deprived of the chance to become the senior patrol leader of his troop because of the Church procedure that the senior patrol leader had to be the deacons quorum president. It was contended that this violated the young man’s civil rights. This procedure had been put into effect as part of the effort to bring about more complete coordination and correlation between the priesthood and the activity programs for young men. While the Church was not a party to the suit, the Church’s practice was a key issue in the litigation. It was for this reason the subpoena was issued to President Kimball. And because it was a subpoena duces tecum, he was directed to bring to the deposition every document relating to the Church’s policy withholding the priesthood from blacks. Because he had had little to do with litigation during his life and was uncertain about what faced him, President Kimball was distraught. He could not sleep. He could talk of little else in the meetings with his counselors. Long sessions were held with the First Presidency, the Twelve, and the Presiding Bishopric where the implications of the suit and the subpoena were considered at length. The Brethren were reluctant to change the procedure because it served an important need to coordinate the priesthood and activity programs. Yet they also were reluctant to sever connections with the Boy Scouts of America, ending a relationship that had lasted amicably and profitably for both parties for more than sixty years. After prayerful deliberation it was decided to change the Scouting procedure in Church-sponsored troops so as not to require that the senior patrol leader also be the deacons’ quorum president. This removed the basis for the suit and it was soon dismissed, much to the relief of President Kimball. He had found that the subpoena so dominated his thoughts he was unable to focus on anything else for long. And there was much to do.

…..

Though these were important steps needed to strengthen the fast-growing Church, they were overshadowed by the action taken by President Kimball on June 9, 1978, when he made the priesthood available to all worthy male members of the Church. Such an action had been discussed for decades. Until President Kimball acted, however, the discussions always ended as they had in the early 1960s during President David O. McKay’s tenure. At that time, as already noted, numerous letters were received from Nigeria and Ghana in West Africa, pleading for the Church to send missionaries. The Brethren refrained from granting these requests. Instead, they sent literature and equipment and urged the people to be patient and prayerful. President McKay noted in his diary that the issue facing the Church was not unlike the issue that faced the first apostles over whether the gospel should be taken to the Gentiles. The earlier issue was resolved when Peter baptized the gentile household of Cornelius after receiving the extraordinary vision recorded in the tenth chapter of Acts. President McKay said the issue regarding the priesthood would be resolved only in the same way—namely, by a revelation from heaven. It remained for President Spencer W. Kimball to fulfill that prediction many years later.

While he and his brethren had talked about the priesthood restriction often and had speculated as to when the Lord would lift it, President Kimball did not begin to focus on it intensely until more than a year before the revelation was announced. Several factors seem to have prompted him to do so: he had genuine concern for those affected by the restriction, a concern intensified by his experiences in South America; he was concerned about the conflict between the restrictions on priesthood and his admonition that members join in prayer that the doors of all nations be opened to the preaching of the gospel; and he was concerned about administrative complications leaders would face in Brazil, when the temple was completed in São Paulo, in determining qualifications for temple recommends, given the uncertainties about ethnic origins in that country. These and other grave issues drove President Kimball to his knees, seeking a spiritual solution to a problem of tangled complexity.

A string of related events provides insight into the lengthy process by which President Kimball received the revelation he sought. His concern for those deprived of priesthood blessings due to racial origin was typified by his concern for Helvécio Martins, a black member of the Church in Rio de Janeiro. Brother Martins, who would later be called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, joined the Church several years before the revelation on priesthood. In 1977, while serving as the public communications director for the Church in Brazil, he attended the cornerstone lying of the São Paulo Temple. President Kimball motioned to Helvécio, who was in the audience, to take a seat beside him on the stand. Through an interpreter, he told Brother Martins that if he remained faithful, no blessing of the Church would be withheld from him. Later that year, one of the General Authorities assigned to a stake conference in Rio de Janeiro contacted Helvécio and said President Kimball wanted to be sure Helvécio understood the implications of what President Kimball had said at the cornerstone laying ceremony. Helvécio said he understood. (Conversation of author with Elder Martins.)

Meanwhile, President Kimball had begun to discuss the priesthood question with his brethren and to pray for spiritual direction. This included fervent and frequent prayers alone in the Salt Lake Temple. On March 23, 1978, President Kimball advised his counselors that he had had a wakeful night struggling with the question of priesthood restrictions and felt they should be lifted. No action was taken at the time. On April 20, 1978, the prophet advised the Twelve of his prayerful efforts to receive divine guidance on the issue and asked them to join him and his counselors in their prayers to that end. There followed personal interviews between President Kimball and members of the Twelve to discuss the matter. President Kimball continued to spend many hours alone in the temple, imploring the Lord for guidance.

On May 4, 1978, following a council meeting, Elder LeGrand Richards asked President Kimball for the privilege of saying a few words. He told the Brethren that during the meeting, he had seen a personage seated in a chair on the organ. He said he thought it was President Wilford Woodruff. “He was dressed in a white suit and was seated in an armchair,” reported Elder Richards. “I thought at the time that the reason I was privileged to see him was probably that I was the only one there who had ever seen President Woodruff while he was upon the earth. I had heard him dedicate the Salt Lake Temple and I had heard him give his last sermon in the Salt Lake Tabernacle before he died.” (Lucile C. Tate, LeGrand Richards: Beloved Apostle, p. 292.) The significance and timing of this appearance are apparent. Here, appearing through the veil in the upper room of the temple, was the prophet who, almost a hundred years before, had wrestled with a critical problem, plural marriage, which was resolved by revelation, the same way the problem President Kimball faced would be resolved.

The week following this incident, President Kimball again spent several hours alone in the Salt Lake Temple, asking the Lord for guidance. On Tuesday, May 30, 1978, President Kimball read to his counselors a tentative statement he had written in longhand removing all priesthood restrictions from blacks except those restrictions as to worthiness that rest upon all alike. He said that he had a “good, warm feeling” about it. There was a lengthy review of the statements of past leaders about the restrictions on blacks. It was decided that this aspect of the matter should be researched in detail. Elder G. Homer Durham, who was serving as the Church historian, was asked to do this. Also, the luncheon in the temple for the following Thursday was canceled. Instead of eating lunch, the Brethren were asked to fast and pray that the Lord would make his mind and will clear in this matter.

On Thursday, June 1, 1978, following the meeting of all General Authorities, the First Presidency and the Twelve (Elders Mark E. Petersen and Delbert L. Stapley were absent) counseled for two hours about the restrictions on the priesthood. Each member of the council expressed himself freely on the subject. In the discussion, the feeling was unanimous that the time had come to lift the restrictions. And following the prayer at the end of the meeting, which was offered by President Kimball, several present mentioned the powerful, confirming spirit they felt.

On Wednesday, June 7, 1978, President Kimball advised his counselors that through inspiration he had decided to lift the restrictions on priesthood. At that time, letters were read from three members of the Twelve, which President Kimball had requested, containing suggested wording for the public announcement of the decision. Using these three letters as a base, a fourth statement was prepared and then reviewed, edited, and approved by the First Presidency. This document was taken to the council meeting with the Twelve on Thursday, June 8, 1978. At this meeting, President Kimball advised the Twelve that he had received the inspiration to make the priesthood available to all worthy male members of the Church, whereupon the document was read and, with minor editorial changes, was approved. Later in the day Elder Mark E. Petersen approved by telephone from South America, and Elder Delbert L. Stapley approved when President Kimball visited him in the hospital. The statement, of course, was merely a memorandum of the revelation President Kimball had received by the spiritual means already described.

The next day, Friday, June 9, 1978, all the General Authorities who were in the city and available assembled at 7:00 a.m. President Kimball announced the decision to lift priesthood restrictions, had the statement read, and invited the comments of the Brethren. All sustained the decision and approved the statement. The members of the Seventy who were out of the city on assignment were advised of the decision by telephone. Following the meeting, the statement was released to the press.

The reaction to the announcement was prompt and, with a few exceptions, was overwhelmingly positive. Within minutes after the news hit the street, the telephones in the First Presidency’s office began to ring, and they rang incessantly for hours. There were hundreds of calls, calls from England, from Hawaii, from Florida, from Maine, and from countless points in between, calls (but for two isolated exceptions) that expressed feelings of exuberant joy.

The announcement of this revelation irrevocably altered the future of the Church. Its impact was felt almost immediately in the missions of the Church. During the first full year after the revelation, convert baptisms were up almost 20 percent. Two years later, that rate of growth had almost doubled. The growth was most pronounced in South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. In Brazil, for instance, of the 1989 membership of more than 300,000, approximately 85 percent had joined the Church after the revelation.

The Revelation on the Priesthood, June 1978
[lesson material by Zan & Misty Larsen http://www.elarsen.net]

President N. Eldon Tanner observed that President Kimball had defended the position of the Church for some thirty years as a member of the Twelve, yet when the revelation came, he immediately reversed himself. As an apostle and then as the prophet, President Kimball traveled throughout the Church. His sensitive spirit reached out in love to all people, especially to those deprived of priesthood and temple blessings because of lineage. He noted: “This matter had been on my mind all these years. We have always considered it.” President Kimball described his sacred struggle:
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.”
Unknown to anyone except the First Presidency and the Twelve, President Kimball had asked each of them to carefully research the scriptures and statements of the earlier brethren, to make an exhaustive study of all that had been recorded concerning this issue. For months before the revelation, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve discussed these sacred matters at length in their temple meetings. He also met privately with each of the brethren to learn their feelings on the matter.
On Thursday, l June 1978, the general authorities held their regular monthly fast and testimony meeting. The members of the Seventy and the Presiding Bishopric were then excused, and President Kimball, his two counselors, and ten of the apostles remained (Elder Mark E. Peterson was in South America, and Elder Delbert L. Stapley was in the hospital).
Before offering the prayer that brought the revelation, President Kimball asked each of the brethren to express their feelings and views on this important issue. For more than two hours they talked freely and openly. Elder David B. Haight, the newest member of the Twelve, observed:
As each responded, we witnessed an outpouring of the Spirit which bonded our souls together in perfect unity—a glorious experience. In that bond of unity we felt our total dependence upon heavenly direction if we were to more effectively accomplish the Lord’s charge to carry the message of hope and salvation to all the world.
President Kimball then suggested that we have our prayer at the altar. Usually he asked one of us to lead in prayer; however, on this day he asked, ‘Would you mind if I be voice at the altar today?’ This was the Lord’s prophet asking us. Such humility! Such meekness! So typical of this special servant of all.  …The prophet of God pour[ed] out his heart, pleading eloquently for the Lord to make his mind and will known to his servant, Spencer W. Kimball. The prophet pleaded that he would be given the necessary direction which could expand the Church throughout the world by offering the fullness of the everlasting gospel to all men, based solely upon their personal worthiness without reference to race or color.
In response to a prophet’s humble prayer of faith, united with those of twelve other prophets, seers, and revelators, the Lord poured out his Spirit—and his answer—in a most powerful way. Elder McConkie testified:
It was during this prayer that the revelation came. The Spirit of the Lord rested mightily upon us all; we felt something akin to what happened on the day of Pentecost and at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. From the midst of eternity, the voice of God, conveyed by the power of the Spirit, spoke to his prophet… And we all heard the same voice, received the same message, and became personal witnesses that the word received was the mind and will and voice of the Lord.  …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.
Elder Haight related the events immediately following the historic revelation:
President Kimball arose from the altar. (We surrounded it according to seniority, I being number twelve.) … He turned to his right, and I was the first member of the circle he encountered. He put his arms around me, and as I embraced him I felt the beating of his heart and the intense emotion that filled him. He then continued around the circle, embracing each of the Brethren. No one spoke. Overcome with emotion, we simply shook hands and quietly went to our dressing rooms.
The manner in which this revelation came is unique in our Church history because of the power with which it came, the numbers who received it, and the powerful effects it would have upon so many. Both President Kimball and President Benson said that they had never “experienced anything of such spiritual magnitude and power” as this revelation. The reason the Lord chose to reveal this to the First Presidency and the Twelve, rather than only to his prophet, is due to the tremendous import and eternal significance of what was revealed, according to Elder McConkie. Hence, “the Lord wanted independent witnesses who could bear record that the thing had happened.”
Some have questioned why this revelation came when it did. Some critics of the Church suggest that it came in response to pressures upon the Church. External pressures on Church leaders regarding the blacks and the priesthood immediately before the revelation were minor compared to the 1960s when civil rights were a major issue. As to why the revelation came when it did, Elder McConkie stated that it “was a matter of faith and righteousness and seeking on one hand, and it was a matter of the divine timetable on the other hand.” President Kimball further stated: “There are members of the Church who had brought to President David O. McKay their reasons why it should be changed. Others had gone to Joseph Fielding Smith and Harold B. Lee and to all the former presidents and it had not been accepted because the time had not come for it.”
(All of the above material is from E. Dale LeBaron’s chapter in The Heavens Are Open: The 1992 Sperry Symposium.)
Jerry Perkins – In relating his experiences regarding the revelation that all worthy males were now eligible to receive the priesthood of God, Elder Bruce R. McConkie pointed out one significant reason that Latter-day Saints miss the prompting of the Spirit directed their way by the Lord. He stated: “Latter-day Saints have a complex” in regard to the things of the Spirit. He explained that we want more than what actually happens. Elder McConkie observed that many Latter-day Saints were disappointed with the revelation given to President Spencer W. Kimball and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “Many of them [Latter-day Saints] desire to magnify and build upon what has occurred, and they delight to think of miraculous things. And maybe some of them would like to believe that the Lord himself was there, or that the Prophet Joseph Smith came to deliver the revelation … Well, these things did not happen.”
President Kimball reminded us that “the burning bushes, the smoking mountains… the Cumorahs … were realities; but they were the exceptions.” He taught us that the great volume of revelation comes in less spectacular ways. Finally, this prophet helped explain why many of us miss the revelations of God: “Always expecting the spectacular, many will miss entirely the constant flow of revealed communication.” (From his chapter in The Heavens Are Open: The 1992 Sperry Symposium, p. 257)
Gordon B. Hinckley – 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…. 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…
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 a 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. (Ensign, October 1988, p. 69-70)
David B. Haight – I was there, with the outpouring of the Spirit in that room so strong that none of us could speak afterwards. We just left quietly to go back to the office. No one could say anything because of the powerful outpouring of the heavenly spiritual experience.
Just a few hours after the announcement was made to the press, I was assigned to attend a stake conference in Detroit, Michigan. When my plane landed in Chicago, I noticed an edition of the Chicago Tribune on the newsstand. The headline in the paper read “Mormons Give Blacks Priesthood.” And the subheading said “President Kimball Claims to Have Received a Revelation.” I bought a copy of the newspaper and stared at one word in that subheading—claims. It stood out to me just as if it had been in red neon. As I walked along the hallway to make my plane connection, I thought, Here I am now in Chicago walking through this busy airport, yet I was a witness to this revelation. I was there. I witnessed it. I felt that heavenly influence. I was part of it. Little did the editor of that newspaper realize the truth of that revelation when he wrote, ” …Claims to Have Received a Revelation.” Little did he—or the printer, or the man who put the ink on the press, or the one who delivered the newspaper—little did any of them know that it was truly a revelation from God. Little did they know what I knew because I was a witness to it. (A Light unto the World, p. 39-40)
(Lesson by Zan and Misty Larsen)

Extra Material
Joseph Fielding Smith – The revelations of the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith declare that all little children who die are heirs of the celestial kingdom.  This would mean the children of every race.  All the spirits that come to this world come from the presence of God and, therefore, must have been in his kingdom. … Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and all who rebelled were cast out; therefore, all who remained are entitled to the blessings of the gospel.  (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:55.  Note:  Joseph Fielding Smith passed away several years before the revelation was given.)
Bruce R. McConkie – …The Spirit of the Lord rested mightily upon us all; we felt something akin to what happened on the day of Pentecost and at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple.  From the midst of eternity, the voice of God, conveyed by the power of the Spirit, spoke to his prophet… And we all heard the same voice, received the same message, and became personal witnesses that the word received was the mind and will and voice of the Lord.
President Kimball’s prayer was answered and our prayers were answered.  He heard the voice and we heard the same voice.  All doubt and uncertainty fled.  He knew the answer and we knew the answer.  And we are all living witnesses of the truthfulness of the word so graciously sent from heaven. (Doctrines of the Restoration, p. 161)
Juan Henderson – Still others have reasoned that blacks were denied the priesthood because they were “less valiant” in the premortal life.  Following the announcement of the revelation on priesthood Elder LeGrand Richards of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles said, “Some time ago, the Brethren decided that we should never say that.  We don’t know just what the reason was.”  And he further stated, “The Lord has never indicated that … black skin came because of being less faithful.”  (From his chapter in Out of Obscurity, The Church in the Twentieth Century, p. 154.  According to his footnotes on p. 159-160, Elder Richards’ quotes are from an “interview with Wesley P. Walter, Church Office Building, 16 Aug. 1978, Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, BYU.  Brother Henderson also addresses the issues of the restriction to blacks being an invention by Church leaders after Joseph Smith.)

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Elder Russell M Nelson Performs Open Heart Surgery on President Spencer W Kimball

Serious health problems plagued Elder Kimball. In 1957 throat cancer threatened to rob him of his voice. He agonized, “Shall I ever speak at another temple dedication? Shall I ever preach again?” Following much prayer and fasting, however, the needed operation proved to be less radical than expected. Nevertheless, Elder Kimball lost most of his vocal cords. As he learned to speak again, he continued to ask himself, “Will my gruff fringe voice be an affront to the people?”4 It was not long, however, until the Saints came to respect and heed and love Elder Kimball’s “new voice.”

Then in 1972 a problem with his heart recurred, and he underwent a particularly complicated open-heart operation. With the faith of many people and through the outstanding skill of a devoted Latter-day Saint surgeon, Dr. Russell M. Nelson, Elder Kimball’s life once again was spared. Just prior to the surgery, the First Presidency blessed Dr. Nelson. “They blessed me that the operation would be performed without error, that all would go well, . . . for I had been raised up by the Lord to perform this operation.” It went flawlessly. As Elder Kimball’s heart resumed beating with power and vigor, Dr. Nelson recalled, “The Spirit told me that I had just operated upon a man who would become president of the Church.”5 Despite physical difficulties, Elder Kimball set a legendary example of long hours of selfless and devoted service in building up the kingdom of God. A motto prominently displayed on his desk proclaimed simply “Do It.” These experiences helped prepare Spencer W. Kimball to lead the Church when the call came.

5. Russell Marion Nelson, From Heart to Heart (Salt Lake City: Russell M. Nelson, 1979), pp. 164–65.

Miraculous Missionary Evacuation from Pre-War Germany

On Thursday, 24 August 1939 the First Presidency  ordered the evacuation of all missionaries from Germany and Czechoslovakia. They instructed Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, who was in Europe conducting the annual tour of missions, to take charge.

The evacuation of the missionaries, particularly from the West German Mission, posed great challenges and provided the setting for some remarkable examples of divine assistance.

The First Presidency’s telegram arrived in Germany on Friday morning, 25 August. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith and M. Douglas Wood, mission president, were conducting conferences in Hanover, but President Wood and his wife immediately returned to mission headquarters in Frankfurt. By Friday afternoon they had telegraphed all missionaries, directing them to leave for Holland at once.

In Frankfurt, President Wood gave one of his missionaries, Elder Norman George Seibold, a former football player from Idaho, a special assignment:

“I said: ‘Elder, we have 31 missionaries lost somewhere between here and the Dutch border. It will be your mission to find them and see that they get out.’ . . .

“After four hours on the train he arrived at Cologne, which is about half way to the Dutch border. We had told him to follow his impressions entirely as we had no idea what towns these 31 Elders would be in. Cologne was not his destination, but he felt impressed to get off the train there. It is a very large station, and was then filled with thousands of people. . . . This Elder stepped into this station and whistled our missionary whistle—‘Do What is Right, Let the Consequence Follow.’” Thereby he located eight missionaries. 3

In some towns Elder Seibold remained on board the train, but at others he was impressed to get off. In one small community he recalled, “I had a premonition to go outside the station and out into the town. It seemed silly to me at the time. But we had a short wait and so I went. I passed a Gasthaus, a restaurant there, and I went inside and there were two missionaries there. It was fantastic, in that they both knew me and of course they were quite happy to see me. . . . As surely as if someone had taken me by the hand, I was guided there.” In Copenhagen on Monday, 28 August, President Wood learned that fourteen of the thirty-one missing missionaries had entered Holland safely. That afternoon he received a telegram from Elder Seibold stating that the remaining seventeen would arrive in Denmark that evening. 4

4. David F. Boone, “The Worldwide Evacuation of Latter-day Saint Missionaries at the Beginning of World War II,” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1981, pp. 39–40; see also pp. 35–43.

Elder Norman George Seibold

A Vision in Hawaii

After traveling to Hawaii, Elders McKay and Cannon inspected the Church school at Laie and then visited the other islands. Elder Cannon particularly requested they visit Pulehu on Maui where his father, George Q. Cannon, had baptized the first Hawaiian in July 1851. Thirty-four years later, President McKay recalled the events of their visit to Maui.

“So we came up here, and this is where I was [pointing to a spot where a pepper tree had been], and as we looked at an old frame house that stood there then, he said, ‘That is probably the old chapel.’ It seemed to me it was over in the distance. Nothing else was here. We said ‘Well, probably that is the place. We are probably standing on the spot upon which your father, George Q. Cannon, and Judge Napela addressed those people.’ We became very much impressed with the surroundings, association, and spiritual significance of the occasion; as we had also been with the manifestations we had had on our trip to the Orient and thus far in Hawaii. I said, ‘I think we should have a word of prayer.’ . . .

“I offered the prayer. We all had our eyes closed, and it was a very inspirational gathering. As we started to walk away at the conclusion of the prayer, Brother Keola Kailimai took Brother E. Wesley Smith to the side and very earnestly began talking to him in Hawaiian. As we walked along, the rest of us dropped back. They continued walking, and Brother Kailimai very seriously told in Hawaiian what he had seen during the prayer. They stopped right over there [pointing a short distance away] and Brother E. Wesley Smith said, ‘Brother McKay, do you know what Brother Kailimai has told me?’ I answered, ‘No.’ ‘Brother Kailimai said that while you were praying, and we all had our eyes closed, he saw two men who he thought were Hugh J. Cannon and E. Wesley Smith step out of line in front of us and shake hands with someone, and he wondered why Brother Cannon and Brother Smith were shaking hands while we were praying. He opened his eyes and there stood those two men still in line, with their eyes closed just as they had been. He quickly closed his eyes because he knew he had seen a vision.’

“Now Brother Hugh J. Cannon greatly resembled Brother George Q. Cannon, his father. I spoke during the trip of his resemblance. Of course, E. Wesley Smith has the Smith attribute just as President Joseph Fielding Smith has it. Naturally, Brother Keola Kailimai would think that these two men were there. I said, ‘I think it was George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith, two former missionaries to Hawaii, whom that spiritual-minded man saw.’

“We walked a few steps farther and I said, ‘Brother Kailimai, I do not understand the significance of your vision, but I do know that the veil between us and those former missionaries was very thin.’ Brother Hugh J. Cannon who was by my side, with tears rolling down his cheeks, said ‘ Brother McKay, there was no veil. ’” 10

10. David O. McKay, Cherished Experiences. Rev. and enl. Compiled by Clare Middlemiss (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976), pp. 115–16.

Apostolic Calling of Melvin J. Ballard

Prior to Elder Ballard’s birth, his mother had learned in a remarkable way that the baby she was carrying would become an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 This spiritual experience was confirmed when Elder Ballard was told in his patriarchal blessing that he would be one of the Lord’s special witnesses.

The death of President Smith and the reorganization of the First Presidency had left a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Many of the Apostles thought President Grant would call his good friend and faithful Church member Richard W. Young to that position. President Grant intended, with the consent of his two counselors, to call Richard Young to the apostleship. He began to reflect and pray about the vacancy. When the First Presidency met with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President Grant reached into his pocket and pulled out a slip of paper with Richard W. Young’s name written on it, fully intending to present it for approval. Instead, he found himself saying that the Lord wanted Melvin J. Ballard, the Northwestern States mission president, to fill the vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. President Grant later testified that he learned from this experience that the Lord does indeed inspire the President of the Church. 3

3. See Francis M. Gibbons, Heber J. Grant: Man of Steel, Prophet of God (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979) pp. 174–76.

Inspiration at the Stake Level is Often Instituted Church-wide

David O. McKay, a young returned missionary, college graduate, and professional educator, had a profound impact on the development of the Sunday School during the first part of the twentieth century. He was called to be a member of the Weber Stake Sunday School superintendency in Ogden and was asked to give particular attention to the instruction being taught. After some observation, he introduced some refinements in the teaching methods being used, such as defining the lesson goals, outlining the materials, using teaching aids, and making practical application of the lessons to daily life. A specific course for each age group was developed to be used throughout the stake. In 1906, David O. McKay was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and was also called as a member of the general Sunday School superintendency. In this position he was able to promote similar improvements throughout the Church. Before 1906 the Sunday School had been essentially an organization for children and youth. In that year, however, the first class for adults, the “parents’ class,” was inaugurated Churchwide. 4

4. See James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976), p. 461.

In 1903, President Smith emphasized that the other programs of the Church should be “supplements to our teachings and training in the home. Not one child in a hundred would go astray, if the home environment, example, and training, were in harmony with the truth in the Gospel of Christ,” he promised. 9 In 1909 the Granite Stake in Salt Lake City inaugurated a weekly home evening program for families, and President Joseph F. Smith declared that the stake presidency’s action was inspired. Following the success of this stake program, the First Presidency recommended in 1915 that a similar activity be adopted monthly and used Churchwide:

“We advise and urge the inauguration of a ‘Home Evening’ throughout the Church, at which time fathers and mothers may gather their boys and girls about them in the home and teach them the word of the Lord. They may thus learn more fully the needs and requirements of their families. . . .

“If the Saints obey this counsel, we promise that great blessings will result. Love at home and obedience to parents will increase. Faith will be developed in the hearts of the youth of Israel, and they will gain power to combat the evil influence and temptations which beset them.” 10

10. In James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–75), 4:338–39.

A Powerful Missionary Experience of Hugh B. Brown

A young, inexperienced elder from Canada named Hugh B. Brown was laboring in Cambridge in 1904. On his arrival in that city, he saw posters in the train station declaring “Beware of the vile deceivers; the Mormons are returning. Drive them out.” For two days he went from house to house leaving tracts where he could and unsuccessfully attempting to engage Britons in gospel conversations. 18 One Saturday evening, as he later remembered, a knock came on the door.

“The lady of the house answered the door. I heard a voice say, ‘Is there an Elder Brown lives here?’ I thought, ‘Oh, oh, here it is!’

“She said, ‘Why, yes, he’s in the front room. Come in, please.’

“He came in and said, ‘Are you Elder Brown?’

“I was not surprised that he was surprised. I said, ‘Yes, sir.’

“He said, ‘Did you leave this tract at my door?’

“Well, my name and address were on it. Though I was attempting at that time to get ready to practice law, I didn’t know how to answer it. I said, ‘Yes, sir, I did.’

“He said, ‘Last Sunday there were 17 of us heads of families left the Church of England. We went to my home where I have a rather large room. Each of us has a large family, and we filled the large room with men, women and children. We decided that we would pray all through the week that the Lord would send us a new pastor. When I came home tonight I was discouraged, I thought our prayer had not been answered. But when I found this tract under my door, I knew the Lord had answered our prayer. Will you come tomorrow night and be our new pastor?’

“Now, I hadn’t been in the mission field three days. I didn’t know anything about missionary work, and he wanted me to be their pastor. But I was reckless enough to say, ‘Yes, I’ll come.’ And I repented from then till the time of the meeting.

“He left, and took my appetite with him! I called in the lady of the house and told her I didn’t want any tea [supper]. I went up to my room and prepared for bed. I knelt at my bed. My young brothers and sisters, for the first time in my life I talked with God. I told Him of my predicament. I pleaded for His help. I asked Him to guide me. I pleaded that He would take it off my hands. I got up and went to bed and couldn’t sleep and got out and prayed again, and kept that up all night—but I really talked with God.”

He spent the next day without breakfast or lunch, walking and worrying that he had to be the religious leader for these people.

“Finally it came to the point where the clock said 6:45. I got up and put on my long Prince Albert coat, my stiff hat which I had acquired in Norwich, took my walking cane (which we always carried in those days), my kid gloves, put a Bible under my arm, and dragged myself down to that building, literally. I just made one track all the way.

“Just as I got to the gate the man came out, the man I had seen the night before. He bowed very politely and said, ‘Come in, Reverend, sir.’ I had never been called that before. I went in and saw the room filled with people, and they all stood up to honor their new pastor, and that scared me to death.

“Then I had come to the point where I began to think what I had to do, and I realized I had to say something about singing. I suggested that we sing ‘O My Father.’ I was met with a blank stare. We sang it—it was a terrible cowboy solo. Then I thought, if I could get these people to turn around and kneel by their chairs, they wouldn’t be looking at me while I prayed. I asked them if they would and they responded readily. They all knelt down and I knelt down, and for the second time in my life I talked with God. All fear left me. I didn’t worry any more. I was turning it over to Him.

“I said to Him, among other things, ‘Father in Heaven, these folks have left the Church of England. They have come here tonight to hear the truth. You know that I am not prepared to give them what they want, but Thou art, O God, the one that can; and if I can be an instrument through whom You speak, very well, but please take over.’

“When we arose most of them were weeping, as was I. Wisely I dispensed with the second hymn, and I started to talk. I talked 45 minutes. I don’t know what I said. I didn’t talk—God spoke through me, as subsequent events proved. And He spoke so powerfully to that group that at the close of that meeting they came and put their arms around me, held my hands. They said, ‘This is what we have been waiting for. Thank God you came.’

“I told you I dragged myself down to that meeting. On my way back home that night I only touched ground once, I was so elated that God had taken off my hands an insuperable task for man.

“Within three months every man, woman and child in that audience was baptized a member of the Church.” 19

19. Father, Are You There?” Brigham Young University fireside address (Provo, 8 Oct. 1967), pp. 13–15.