Bruce R. McConkie Explains The Revelation On The Priesthood

All Are Alike unto God

BRUCE R. MCCONKIE
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Aug. 18, 1978

I would like to say something about the new revelation relative to the priesthood going to those of all nations and races. “He [meaning Christ, who is the Lord God] inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33).

These words have now taken on a new meaning. We have caught a new vision of their true significance. This also applies to a great number of other passages in the revelations. Since the Lord gave this revelation on the priesthood, our understanding of many passages has expanded. Many of us never imagined or supposed that they had the extensive and broad meaning that they do have.

I shall give you a few impressions relative to what has happened, and then attempt—if properly guided by the Spirit—to indicate to you the great significance that this event has in the Church, in the world, and where the rolling forth of the great gospel is concerned.

The gospel goes to various peoples and nations on a priority basis. We were commanded in the early days of this dispensation to preach the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. Our revelations talk about its going to every creature. There was, of course, no possible way for us to do all of this in the beginning days of our dispensation, nor can we now, in the full sense.

And so, guided by inspiration, we began to go from one nation and one culture to another. Someday, in the providences of the Lord, we shall get into Red China and Russia and the Middle East, and so on, until eventually the gospel will have been preached everywhere, to all people; and this will occur before the Second Coming of the Son of Man.

Not only is the gospel to go, on a priority basis and harmonious to a divine timetable, to one nation after another, but the whole history of God’s dealings with men on earth indicates that such has been the case in the past; it has been restricted and limited where many people are concerned. For instance, in the days between Moses and Christ, the gospel went to the house of Israel, almost exclusively. By the time of Jesus, the legal administrators and prophetic associates that he had were so fully indoctrinated with the concept of having the gospel go only to the house of Israel, that they were totally unable to envision the true significance of his proclamation that after the Resurrection they should then go to all the world. They did not go to the gentile nations initially. In his own ministration, Jesus preached only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and had so commanded the Apostles (see Matthew 10:6).

It is true that he made few minor exceptions because of the faith and devotion of some Gentile people. There was one woman who wanted to eat the crumbs that fell from the table of the children, causing him to say, “O woman, great is thy faith” (Matthew 15:28; see also Mark 7:27–28). With some minor exceptions, the gospel in that day went exclusively to Israel. The Lord had to give Peter the vision and revelation of the sheet coming down from heaven with the unclean meat on it, following which Cornelius sent the messenger to Peter to learn what he, Cornelius, and his gentile associates should do. The Lord commanded them that the gospel go to the Gentiles; and so it was. There was about a quarter of a century, then, in New Testament times, when there were extreme difficulties among the Saints. They were weighing and evaluating, struggling with the problem of whether the gospel was to go only to the house of Israel or whether it now went to all men. Could all men come to him on an equal basis with the seed of Abraham?

There have been these problems, and the Lord has permitted them to arise. There isn’t any question about that. We do not envision the whole reason and purpose behind all of it; we can only suppose and reason that it is on the basis of our premortal devotion and faith.

You know this principle: God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him” (Acts 17:26–27)—meaning that there is an appointed time for successive nations and peoples and races and cultures to be offered the saving truths of the gospel. There are nations today to whom we have not gone—notably Red China and Russia. But you can rest assured that we will fulfill the requirement of taking the gospel to those nations before the Second Coming of the Son of Man.

And I have no hesitancy whatever in saying that before the Lord comes, in all those nations we will have congregations that are stable, secure, devoted, and sound. We will have stakes of Zion. We will have people who have progressed in spiritual things to the point where they have received all of the blessings of the house of the Lord. That is the destiny.

We have revelations that tell us that the gospel is to go to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people before the Second Coming of the Son of Man. And we have revelations which recite that when the Lord comes he will find those who speak every tongue and are members of every nation and kindred, who will be kings and priests, who will live and reign on earth with him a thousand years. That means, as you know, that people from all nations will have the blessings of the house of the Lord before the Second Coming.

We have read these passages and their associated passages for many years. We have seen what the words say and have said to ourselves, “Yes, it says that, but we must read out of it the taking of the gospel and the blessings of the temple to the Negro people, because they are denied certain things.” There are statements in our literature by the early Brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, “You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?” And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.

We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more.

It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year, 1978. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them. We now do what meridian Israel did when the Lord said the gospel should go to the Gentiles. We forget all the statements that limited the gospel to the house of Israel, and we start going to the Gentiles.

Obviously, the Brethren have had a great anxiety and concern about this problem for a long period of time, and President Spencer W. Kimball has been exercised and has sought the Lord in faith. When we seek the Lord on a matter, with sufficient faith and devotion, he gives us an answer. You will recall that the Book of Mormon teaches that if the Apostles in Jerusalem had asked the Lord, he would have told them about the Nephites. But they didn’t ask, and they didn’t manifest that faith; and they didn’t get an answer. One underlying reason for what happened to us is that the Brethren asked in faith; they petitioned and desired and wanted an answer—President Kimball in particular. And the other underlying principle is that in the eternal providences of the Lord, the time had come for extending the gospel to a race and a culture to whom it had previously been denied, at least as far as all of its blessings are concerned. So it was a matter of faith and righteousness and seeking on the one hand, and it was a matter of the divine timetable on the other hand. The time had arrived when the gospel, with all its blessings and obligations, should go to the Negro.

Well, in that setting, on the first day of June in this year, 1978, the First Presidency and the Twelve, after full discussion of the proposition and all the premises and principles that are involved, importuned the Lord for a revelation. President Kimball was mouth, and he prayed with great faith and great fervor; this was one of those occasions when an inspired prayer was offered. You know the Doctrine and Covenants statement, that if we pray by the power of the Spirit we will receive answers to our prayers and it will be given us what we shall ask (see D&C 50:30). It was given President Kimball what he should ask. He prayed by the power of the Spirit, and there was perfect unity, total and complete harmony, between the Presidency and the Twelve on the issue involved.

And when President Kimball finished his prayer, the Lord gave a revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost. Revelation primarily comes by the power of the Holy Ghost. Always that member of the Godhead is involved. But most revelations, from the beginning to now, have come in that way. There have been revelations given in various ways on other occasions. The Father and the Son appeared in the Sacred Grove. Moroni, an angel from heaven, came relative to instructing the Prophet in the affairs that were destined to occur in this dispensation. There have been visions, notably the vision of the degrees of glory. There may be an infinite number of ways that God can ordain that revelations come. But, primarily, revelation comes by the power of the Holy Ghost. The principle is set forth in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 68, that whatever the elders of the Church speak, when moved upon by the power of the Holy Ghost, shall be scripture, shall be 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. The revelation came to the president of the Church; it also came to each individual present. There were ten members of the Council of the Twelve and three of the First Presidency there assembled. The result was that President Kimball knew, and each one of us knew, independent of any other person, by direct and personal revelation to us, that the time had now come to extend the gospel and all its blessings and all its obligations, including the priesthood and the blessings of the house of the Lord, to those of every nation, culture, and race, including the black race. There was no question whatsoever as to what happened or as to the word and message that came.

The revelation came to the president of the Church and, in harmony with Church government, was announced by him; the announcement was made eight days later over the signature of the First Presidency. But in this instance, in addition to the revelation coming to the man who would announce it to the Church and to the world, and who was sustained as the mouthpiece of God on earth, the revelation came to every member of the body that I have named. They all knew it in the temple.

In my judgment this was done by the Lord in this way because it was a revelation of such tremendous significance and import; one which would reverse the whole direction of the Church, procedurally and administratively; one which would affect the living and the dead; one which would affect the total relationship that we have with the world; one, I say, of such significance that the Lord wanted independent witnesses who could bear record that the thing had happened.

Now if President Kimball had received the revelation and had asked for a sustaining vote, obviously he would have received it and the revelation would have been announced. But the Lord chose this other course, in my judgment, because of the tremendous import and the eternal significance of what was being revealed. This affects our missionary work and all of our preaching to the world. This affects our genealogical research and all of our temple ordinances. This affects what is going on in the spirit world, because the gospel is preached in the spirit world preparatory to men’s receiving the vicarious ordinances which make them heirs to salvation and exaltation. This is a revelation of tremendous significance.

The vision of the degrees of glory begins by saying, “Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth” (D&C 76:1). In other words, in that revelation the Lord was announcing truth to heaven and to earth because those principles of salvation operate on both sides of the veil; and salvation is administered to an extent here to men, and it is administered to another extent in the spirit world. We correlate and combine our activities and do certain things for the salvation of men while we are in mortality, and then certain things are done for the salvation of men while they are in the spirit world awaiting the day of the Resurrection.

Well, once again a revelation was given that affects this sphere of activity and the sphere that is to come. And so it had tremendous significance; the eternal import was such that it came in the way it did. The Lord could have sent messengers from the other side to deliver it, but he did not. He gave the revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost. Latter-day Saints have a complex: many of them 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 (see Time, 7 August 1978, p. 55), which was one of the possibilities. Well, these things did not happen. The stories that go around to the contrary are not factual or realistic or true, and you as teachers in the Church Educational System will be in a position to explain and to tell your students that this thing came by the power of the Holy Ghost, and that all the Brethren involved, the thirteen who were present, are independent personal witnesses of the truth and divinity of what occurred.

There is no way to describe in language what is involved. This cannot be done. You are familiar with Book of Mormon references where the account says that no tongue could tell and no pen could write what was involved in the experience and that it had to be felt by the power of the Spirit. This was one of those occasions. To carnal people who do not understand the operating of the Holy Spirit of God upon the souls of man, this may sound like gibberish or jargon or uncertainty or ambiguity; but to those who are enlightened by the power of the Spirit and who have themselves felt its power, it will have a ring of veracity and truth, and they will know of its verity. I cannot describe in words what happened; I can only say that it happened and that it can be known and understood only by the feeling that can come into the heart of man. You cannot describe a testimony to someone. No one can really know what a testimony is—the feeling and the joy and the rejoicing and the happiness that comes into the heart of man when he gets one—except another person who has received a testimony. Some things can be known only by revelation, “The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11).

This is a brief explanation of what was involved in this new revelation. I think I can add that it is one of the signs of the times. It is something that had to occur before the Second Coming. It was something that was mandatory and imperative in order to enable us to fulfill all of the revelations that are involved, in order to spread the gospel in the way that the scriptures say it must spread before the Lord comes, in order for all of the blessings to come to all of the people, according to the promises. It is one of the signs of the times. This revelation which came on the first day of June was reaffirmed by the spirit of inspiration one week later on June 8, when the Brethren approved the document that was to be announced to the world. And then it was reaffirmed the next day, on Friday, June 9, with all of the General Authorities present in the temple, that is, all who were available. All received the assurance and witness and confirmation by the power of the Spirit that what had occurred was the mind, the will, the intent, and the purpose of the Lord.

Well, this is a glorious day. This is a wondrous thing; the veil is thin. The Lord is not far distant from his church. He is not far removed.

President Kimball is a man of almost infinite spiritual capacity—a tremendous spiritual giant. The Lord has magnified him beyond any understanding or expression and has given him His mind and His will on a great number of vital matters which have altered the course of the past—one of which is the organization of the First Quorum of the Seventy. As you know, the Church is being guided and led by the power of the Holy Ghost, and the Lord’s hand is in it. There is no question whatever about that. And we are doing the right thing where this matter is concerned.

There has been a tremendous feeling of gratitude and thanksgiving in the hearts of members of the Church everywhere, with isolated exceptions. There are individuals who are out of harmony on this and on plural marriage and on other doctrines, but for all general purposes there has been universal acceptance; and everyone who has been in tune with the Spirit has known that the Lord spoke, and that his mind and his purposes are being manifest to the course the Church is pursuing. We have already called our first Negro elder. He has been assigned to serve in the Florida Fort Lauderdale Mission. We have already called our first Negro sister, assigned to the Brazil Rio de Janeiro Mission. This race and culture now is going to be one with us in bearing the burdens of the kingdom.

We talk about the scriptures being unfolded—read over again the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (see Matthew 20) and remind yourselves that those who labor through the heat of the day for twelve hours are going to be rewarded the same as those who came in at the third and the sixth and the eleventh hours. Well, it is the eleventh hour; it is the Saturday night of time. In this eleventh hour the Lord has given the blessings of the gospel to the last group of laborers in the vineyard. And when he metes out his rewards, when he makes his payments, according to the accounts and the scriptural statements, he will give the penny to all, whether it is for one hour or twelve hours of work. All are alike unto God, black and white, bond and free, male and female.

Bruce R. McConkie was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this address was given at the CES Religious Educators Symposium on 18 August 1978.

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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.)

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.

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

Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual

Second edition

© 1989, 1993, 2000, 2003 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

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]