“Warm Responses to Priesthood Announcement,” Ensign, Aug. 1978, 78–79
On a quiet Friday in June, the announcement came: “… every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood.”
The reaction? For Church members, joyous surprise, a warm witness that a living prophet receives revelation, and increased understanding. For nonmembers, praise mingled with curiosity.
Church members throughout the world say they will always remember what they were doing when they heard the announcement, which was made June 9 from Salt Lake City. The official notification of the revelation was sent in a letter to Church leaders throughout the world. The news media carried the news in front-page headlines.
Newspapers across the United States delayed editions to include the news; two news magazines, Time and Newsweek, stopped the presses on their weekend editions to get the story in. The news made the front page of The New York Times. Newspapers that previously had been neutral or negative on Church-related issues carried laudatory editorials. U.S. President Jimmy Carter commended President Spencer W. Kimball for “compassionate prayerfulness and courage.”
Yet the real news was in the lives that the revelation affects.
Brother Mel Stricklin of the North Branch Ward, East Brunswick New Jersey Stake, a postal worker, was at work when his wife called him to relay the news. The Stricklins, who are black, joined the Church seven years ago.
“I was so overwhelmed that I just got warm all over. I couldn’t sit down, I couldn’t stand up. I had to go outside and thank God that now my family and I can be sealed together,” Brother Stricklin says. “It was such a wonderful feeling that I can’t put it into words. I think it was the most important announcement of my life. It means so much to us, after waiting so long.”
Brother Stricklin was interviewed by his bishop that Sunday and was ordained a priest in the Aaronic Priesthood a week later. He will be presented at stake conference in August to be ordained an elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood. After that ordination, the Stricklins plan to be sealed.
“I feel it’s an awesome responsibility to act in the name of God. I’m praying to the Lord every day that I can be worthy to receive his Spirit and authority.”
The Stricklins are thankful that Brother Stricklin’s life has been spared twice by priesthood blessings. And they are thankful for the support of their ward. On the day of the announcement, the Stricklins’ telephone rang continuously from 3 P.M. to 11 P.M. The last call was from a man in Salt Lake City—the former missionary who baptized them.
Throughout the Church, steps were taken to ordain worthy men such as Brother Stricklin. A brief telegram, received at Church headquarters in Salt Lake City a few days after the announcement, stated that an ordination had taken place in Bangkok, Thailand, on what would have been Saturday in the United States. (Thailand is a day ahead of the United States.)
In the Plainview Long Island Stake, the opportunity for one such member of the Church came soon after the announcement of the revelation. He was presented for a sustaining vote in a stake conference June 11. Stake President Charles Neaman relates: “We had sustained one other man, and this man was next. He stood up and held his little son. We asked for a sustaining vote on his behalf. The hands just shot up. To me, that was just like sustaining the prophet.”
The announcement also had an impact on those whose lives were not directly affected. Stake President Conrad Caldwell of the Houston Texas Stake says he is excited—and sobered—about the implications of the revelation. “The way is now open for more missionary work,” he says. “And it certainly is indicative of the times in which we live, and the need for things to be done.”
Stake President Richard L. Chapple of the Tallahassee Florida Stake recounts what he has learned from the revelation: “I now understand more fully the concept that there really is a prophet, and the process followed to receive the revelation. It’s a great lesson—what have I really prayed that long and hard for?
“Now we’re so excited. We can really see the Church going forth. It’s great to be alive and part of it. It’s as right as it can be.”