“Fireside Commemorates 1978 Priesthood Revelation,” Ensign, Sept. 2003, 78–79
In an evening filled with music, testimony, and gratitude, members of the Church gathered at the Salt Lake Tabernacle to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the revelation known as Official Declaration—2 in the Doctrine and Covenants, stating that “all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color.” The announcement was made on 8 June 1978 under the direction of President Spencer W. Kimball.
“Tonight we commemorate one of the most significant revelations in this dispensation, … a revelation that allows the gospel in its fulness to be taken literally to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people,” said Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Presidency of the Seventy, who presided and spoke at the fireside.
The program included The Saints Unified Voices, a choir of Church members based in Las Vegas, Nevada, and directed by Sister Gladys Knight. A widely-known rhythm and blues artist, Sister Knight joined the Church about six years ago through the example of her son who had joined about ten years earlier.
Elder Bateman was the concluding speaker at the fireside. He shared his personal experience with the 1978 revelation. In his professional life, Elder Bateman had several opportunities to travel to West Africa. In the 1970s he met groups of people in Africa who had learned of the Church or the Book of Mormon and had organized themselves to discuss and live their teachings. By the mid-1970s Elder Bateman, not yet a member of the Seventy, had met several people in these unofficial congregations who asked him to send missionaries with the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
Elder Bateman was again in Africa on business in late 1977. At the request of Elder James E. Faust, then a member of the Presidency of the Seventy and president of the International Mission, he sought out members who had joined the Church in other places and had returned to their homelands in Africa. “I spent 10 days in Ghana and Nigeria engaged in business by day and visiting African Church members during the evenings and on the weekend,” he said.
He returned to Africa again in May 1978 and reported to Elder Faust the plight of these members. “Many of them were on their own, there were no Church units to attend, and some had not received the sacrament for three or four years,” Elder Bateman said. “But they were faithful with strong testimonies.”
Elder Bateman continued: “Can you imagine my feelings 10 days later when I turned on the car radio and heard a voice say, ‘Flash bulletin! Today, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced that from this time forward all worthy males may hold the priesthood and all worthy members may enjoy the blessings of the temple.’ Tears ran down my face as I thought of my African friends and the blessings that awaited them.”
Today, 25 years later, the Church continues to grow at a miraculous pace as it spreads to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and peoples. Almost 70 percent of the current Church membership has been added since the 1978 revelation. There are temples across the earth, including one functioning and two under construction in Africa.
“Why does the Lord work in stages in taking the gospel across the earth? Why did He initially send the Twelve only to the house of Israel and not to others during His ministry? Why did it take a special revelation to Peter following the Lord’s Ascension to expand the work to the Gentiles? Why has the Lord phased His work in this dispensation? It is clear that the Lord has a divine timetable,” Elder Bateman concluded. “We are all God’s children, and the great plan of redemption is organized so that every person who has lived, now lives, or will live on this planet will have an opportunity to accept it.”