“Chapter 56: Official Declaration 2,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)
“Chapter 56,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual
As missionary work spread across the world during the 20th century, Church leaders prayed for further guidance concerning restrictions that had existed on priesthood ordination and temple ordinances for Church members of black African descent. On June 1, 1978, the Lord revealed to President Spencer W. Kimball, his counselors in the First Presidency, and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that these restrictions should be removed. On June 8, 1978, the First Presidency announced this revelation in a letter to Church leaders. This letter is recorded in Official Declaration 2.
- December 30, 1973
Spencer W. Kimball was ordained as President of the Church.
- June 1, 1978
President Kimball, his counselors in the First Presidency, and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles received a revelation extending priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy Church members.
- June 8, 1978
The First Presidency issued a letter announcing the revelation.
- September 30, 1978
The revelation received on June 1 was presented to Church members during general conference and was unanimously sustained as “the word and will of the Lord” (Official Declaration 2).
- November–December 1978
Missionaries arrived in Ghana and Nigeria to establish the Church in West Africa.
“From the mid-1800s until 1978 … the Church did not ordain men of black African descent to [the] priesthood or allow black men or women to participate in temple endowment or sealing ordinances” (“Race and the Priesthood,” Gospel Topics Essays, topics.lds.org). In regards to the origin of these priesthood and temple restrictions, the introduction to Official Declaration 2 in the 2013 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants states: “The Book of Mormon teaches that ‘all are alike unto God,’ including ‘black and white, bond and free, male and female’ (2 Nephi 26:33). Throughout the history of the Church, people of every race and ethnicity in many countries have been baptized and have lived as faithful members of the Church. During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, a few black male members of the Church were ordained to the priesthood. Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice. Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter this practice and prayerfully sought guidance. The revelation came to Church President Spencer W. Kimball and was affirmed to other Church leaders in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 1978. The revelation removed all restrictions with regard to race that once applied to the priesthood” (Official Declaration 2, introduction).
“The origins of priesthood availability are not entirely clear. Some explanations with respect to this matter were made in the absence of direct revelation and references to these explanations are sometimes cited in publications. These previous personal statements do not represent Church doctrine” (“Race and the Church: All Are Alike Unto God,” Feb. 29, 2012, mormonnewsroom.org). “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form” (“Race and the Priesthood,” Gospel Topics Essays, topics.lds.org).
Speaking of past theories and alleged reasons given by some for the priesthood and temple restrictions, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote:
“In June 1978 we were thrilled when President Spencer W. Kimball, our prophet-president, announced that ‘all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color’ (Official Declaration 2). The direction was changed by revelation, and with that revelation the reasons mortals had given for the prior direction were all swept away.
“In a 1988 interview on the tenth anniversary of the revelation on the priesthood, I explained my attitude toward attempts to supply mortal reasons for divine revelation:
“‘If you read the scriptures with this question in mind, “Why did the Lord command this or why did he command that,” you find that in less than one in a hundred commands was any reason given. It’s not the pattern of the Lord to give reasons. We [mortals] can put reasons to revelation. We can put reasons to commandments. When we do, we’re on our own. Some people put reasons to the one we’re talking about here [the priesthood and temple restrictions], and they turned out to be spectacularly wrong. …
“‘… Let’s don’t make the mistake that’s been made in the past, here and in other areas, trying to put reasons to revelation. The reasons turn out to be man-made to a great extent. The revelations are what we sustain as the will of the Lord, and that’s where safety lies’” (Life’s Lessons Learned , 68–69).
For additional historical background regarding the restrictions on priesthood ordination and temple ordinances for black Church members of African descent, see “Race and the Priesthood,” Gospel Topics Essays, topics.lds.org.
The announcement of the revelation “that the long-promised day [had] come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood” (Official Declaration 2) was included in a letter to Church leaders throughout the world. This letter is included in Official Declaration 2. The letter was dated June 8, 1978, and was first released through the media on June 9, 1978. On September 30, 1978, during general conference, President N. Eldon Tanner of the First Presidency presented this revelation “extending priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church” (Official Declaration 2) to Church members for a sustaining vote. Church members sustained the revelation as “the word and will of the Lord” (Official Declaration 2). Thus, Official Declaration 2 stands as further witness that the heavens are still open and that the Lord guides His Church through continuing revelation to His prophets. While testifying that the Lord reveals His will to His prophets today, President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) declared:
“Continuous revelation is indeed the very lifeblood of the gospel of the living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. …
“How this confused world of today needs revelation from God. … How absurd it would be to think that the Lord would give to a small handful of people in Palestine and the Old World his precious direction through revelation and now, in our extremity, close the heavens. …
“I bear witness to the world today that more than a century and a half ago the iron ceiling was shattered; the heavens were once again opened, and since that time revelations have been continuous.
“That new day dawned when another soul with passionate yearning prayed for divine guidance. A spot of hidden solitude was found, knees were bent, a heart was humbled, pleadings were voiced, and a light brighter than the noonday sun illuminated the world—the curtain never to be closed again.
“A young lad … , Joseph Smith, of incomparable faith, broke the spell, shattered the ‘heavens of iron’ and reestablished communication. … A new prophet was in the land and through him God set up his kingdom, never to be destroyed nor left to another people—a kingdom that will stand forever. …
“Since that momentous day in 1820, additional scripture has continued to come, including the numerous and vital revelations flowing in a never-ending stream from God to his prophets on the earth. …
“… We testify to the world that revelation continues and that the vaults and files of the Church contain these revelations which come month to month and day to day. We testify also that there is, since 1830 when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, and will continue to be, so long as time shall last, a prophet, recognized of God and his people, who will continue to interpret the mind and will of the Lord” (“Revelation: The Word of the Lord to His Prophets,” Ensign, May 1977, 76–78).
While presenting to Church members the revelation lifting restrictions on priesthood and temple blessings, President N. Eldon Tanner emphasized Church leaders’ unanimous support and approval of the revelation: “After [President Spencer W. Kimball] 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” (Official Declaration 2). This meeting occurred on June 1, 1978, during which ten members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency were present (see Gordon B. Hinckley, “Priesthood Restoration,” Ensign, Oct. 1988, 69–70).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “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” (“All Are Alike unto God” [Church Educational System Symposium, Aug. 18, 1978], 5, speeches.byu.edu). Later that day, the First Presidency contacted two members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—Elder Mark E. Petersen and Elder Delbert L. Stapley—who had not been able to attend either the June 1 or June 8 meetings. Elder Peterson declared his full support of the revelation by telephone from South America, where he was on assignment. Elder Stapley approved the revelation when the First Presidency visited him that day in the hospital (see Henry Dixon Taylor, Autobiography of Henry Dixon Taylor , 286–87). Thus, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were united in sustaining the revelation as “the word and will of the Lord” (Official Declaration 2; see also D&C 107:27, 29).
The following day, June 9, 1978, the First Presidency and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles met with all available General Authorities in the Salt Lake Temple. Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who was then serving as a member of the Seventy and was present at the meeting, related the following experience: “I had no inkling what was going on. And as we knelt down to pray [to begin the meeting], the Spirit told me what it was going to be … and after that prayer, President Kimball began the description. I began to weep” (“Associated Press Interviews: 10th Anniversary of Priesthood Revelation,” May 24, 1988, Church History Library).
During this meeting the letter announcing the revelation was read, and each member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who was present shared his individual witness and testimony that the decision to “[extend] priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church” (Official Declaration 2) came by revelation. President Spencer W. Kimball called for a sustaining vote, and the General Authorities of the Church approved unanimously.
The effort of Church leaders to act in unity on the Lord’s inspiration and revelations has always been a guiding principle for the governing councils of the Church. President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) taught:
“Any major questions of policy, procedures, programs, or doctrine are considered deliberately and prayerfully by the First Presidency and the Twelve together. These two quorums, the Quorum of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, meeting together, with every man having total freedom to express himself, consider every major question. …
“No decision emanates from the deliberations of the First Presidency and the Twelve without total unanimity among all concerned. At the outset in considering matters, there may be differences of opinion. These are to be expected. These men come from different backgrounds. They are men who think for themselves. But before a final decision is reached, there comes a unanimity of mind and voice. …
“… I have seen differences of opinion presented in these deliberations. Out of this very process of men speaking their minds has come a sifting and winnowing of ideas and concepts. But I have never observed serious discord or personal enmity among my Brethren. I have, rather, observed a beautiful and remarkable thing—the coming together, under the directing influence of the Holy Spirit and under the power of revelation, of divergent views until there is total harmony and full agreement. Only then is implementation made. That, I testify, represents the spirit of revelation manifested again and again in directing this the Lord’s work.
“I know of no other governing body of any kind of which this might be said” (“God Is at the Helm,” Ensign, May 1994, 54, 59).
Before June 1, 1978, “all of the privileges and blessings which the gospel affords” had not always been available “to every worthy member of the Church” (Official Declaration 2). “As the Church grew worldwide, its overarching mission to ‘go ye therefore, and teach all nations’ [Matthew 28:19] seemed increasingly incompatible with the priesthood and temple restrictions. The Book of Mormon declared that the gospel message of salvation should go forth to ‘every nation, kindred, tongue, and people’ [Mosiah 15:28; 1 Nephi 19:17]. While there were no limits on whom the Lord invited to ‘partake of his goodness’ through baptism [2 Nephi 26:23, 28], the priesthood and temple restrictions created significant barriers, a point made increasingly evident as the Church spread in international locations with diverse and mixed racial heritages.
“Brazil in particular presented many challenges. Unlike the United States and South Africa where legal and [other forms of] racism led to deeply segregated societies, Brazil prided itself on its open, integrated, and mixed racial heritage. In 1975, the Church announced that a temple would be built in São Paulo, Brazil. As the temple construction proceeded, Church authorities encountered faithful black and mixed-ancestry [Church members] who had contributed financially and in other ways to the building of the São Paulo temple, a sanctuary they realized they would not be allowed to enter once it was completed. Their sacrifices, as well as the conversions of thousands of Nigerians and Ghanaians in the 1960s and early 1970s, moved Church leaders” (“Race and the Priesthood,” Gospel Topics Essays, topics.lds.org).
“The expansion of the work of the Lord over the earth” and the occurrence of “people of many nations [responding] to the message of the restored gospel, and [joining] the Church in ever-increasing numbers … inspired [Church leaders] with a desire to extend to every worthy member of the Church all of the privileges and blessings which the gospel affords” (Official Declaration 2).
Motivated by the desire to extend all the blessings of the gospel to every worthy Church member, President Spencer W. Kimball began a careful study of the scriptures and statements by Church leaders since the Prophet Joseph Smith. A number of latter-day prophets had taught that “at some time, in God’s eternal plan, all … brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood” (Official Declaration 2). President Brigham Young (1801–1877) “said that at some future day, black Church members would ‘have [all] the privilege and more’ enjoyed by other members” (“Race and the Priesthood,” Gospel Topics Essays, topics.lds.org). President David O. McKay (1873–1970) testified that “sometime in God’s eternal plan,” worthy men of black African descent “will be given the right to hold the priesthood” (in “Policy Statement of Presidency,” Church News, Jan. 10, 1970, 12). Shortly after becoming President of the Church in 1972, President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) explained that it was “only a matter of time” before Church members of black African descent would be able to receive all the blessings of the gospel. He affirmed: “We’re just waiting for that time” (in L. Brent Goates, Harold B. Lee: Prophet and Seer , 506).
Despite their desires to see that “long-promised day … come” (Official Declaration 2), “Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter the policy [of priesthood and temple restrictions for those of black African descent], and they made ongoing efforts to understand what should be done” (“Race and the Priesthood,” Gospel Topics Essays, topics.lds.org).
As to why the revelation came when it did, Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught, “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” (“All Are Alike unto God,” 3, speeches.byu.edu; “The New Revelation on Priesthood,” in Priesthood , 133).
The examples of Helvécio and Rudá Martins from Brazil and Joseph William Billy Johnson from Ghana illustrate the remarkable faithfulness of those who patiently waited on God to extend priesthood and temple blessings to all His worthy children.
“On a clear April night in 1972, while stuck in a traffic jam in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Helvécio Martins contemplated his family’s search for truth. He and his wife, Rudá, had investigated many religions, but none seemed to fill their spiritual void. ‘I conversed with God that night, asking for help,’ he [said]” (“Elder Helvécio Martins of the Seventy,” Ensign, May 1990, 106). Several nights later, missionaries came to their home in Rio de Janeiro. Elder Martins recalled:
“The moment those two young men stepped into our apartment, all of my gloom and spiritual discomfort immediately disappeared and was replaced by a calm and serenity which I now know came from the influence of the Holy Spirit. An extraordinary feeling of relief overcame me as I greeted those missionaries and invited my two children into the room. …
“… Before we knew it, the hour was one in the morning, and those missionaries had given us, I … realize in retrospect, most of the missionary lessons” (Helvécio Martins, with Mark Grover, The Autobiography of Elder Helvécio Martins , 43).
“The family was baptized on 2 July 1972. According to Elder Martins, ‘We had found the truth, and nothing would stop us from living it’—not even the fact that their family could not directly enjoy the blessings of the priesthood. But ‘when the Spirit tells you the gospel is true,’ [said Elder Martins], ‘how can you deny it?’” (“Elder Helvécio Martins of the Seventy,” 106). Because Elder Martins and his family had received a testimony of the restored gospel through the Holy Ghost, they moved forward, trusting in the Lord, though there were things that they did not understand.
The Martins family served faithfully in the Church. In 1975, President Spencer W. Kimball announced that a temple would be built in São Paulo, Brazil. “‘Although we didn’t expect to enter it, we worked for the construction of the temple just like other members. … It was the house of the Lord, after all.’ Sister Martins sold her jewelry to help with fund-raising, and Brother Martins served on the publicity committee” (“Elder Helvécio Martins of the Seventy,” 106).
Similar devotion and faithfulness were evident in Africa. When the Church sent missionaries to Ghana in December 1978, they found “the gospel was already well established there” because of the devoted efforts of Joseph William Billy Johnson (Elizabeth Maki, “‘A People Prepared’: West African Pioneer Preached the Gospel Before Missionaries,” history.lds.org). Brother Johnson had first learned of the Church 14 years earlier when a friend gave him copies of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and other Church literature. He recounted: “As I read the Book of Mormon I became convinced that it was really the word of God, and sometimes while reading I would burst into tears. I felt the Spirit as I read. I felt that the book had an inspired message, especially the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith” (Joseph William Billy Johnson, “We Felt the Spirit of the Pioneers,” in “All Are Alike unto God” ed. Dale E. LeBaron , 14).
“Together with [his friends] R. A. F. Mensah and Clement Osekre, Johnson organized a congregation based on the teachings found in a single Book of Mormon and a few pamphlets that Mensah had received from a woman in Europe. Mensah organized a school teaching both secular subjects and religion, again using the Book of Mormon as text. Johnson especially was tireless in spreading the message of the restored church in Ghana, going from street to street, day after day, preaching the gospel.
“‘I was constrained to do it,’ he said. ‘Despite opposition I met on the way—I was highly, really opposed. But still I went on. I couldn’t stop it at all.’ …
“The men wrote to Church headquarters in Salt Lake asking for missionaries to be sent to Ghana to baptize them and establish the Church there, but because of [the priesthood restriction] (making Church organization there impossible), their requests went unfulfilled. They were encouraged by Church President David O. McKay to continue studying the scriptures and to be faithful. …
“Having maintained steady correspondence with Salt Lake, the men learned in 1969 that a member of the Church, Lynn Hilton, would soon be in Ghana on business. Johnson and his associates tracked Hilton down, asked him if he indeed held the ‘Holy Melchizedek Priesthood,’ and took him to the building where they held their meetings.
“‘It was a mud architecture building, only one story high,’ Hilton remembered. ‘And there was a sign over the door that said, “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Accra, Ghana Branch.” … They took us inside and there were rough lumber benches. A dirt floor as I recall.’
“There, the men showed Hilton their one, well-used copy of the Book of Mormon. …
“The men explained that each person was allowed just a few minutes with the book, then it was passed on to the next person to read; the book, they said, was being ‘used and read around the clock and week after week.’
“With a priesthood holder finally in their midst, the men asked Hilton if he would baptize them. Instead, Hilton offered them priesthood blessings and left with a promise to send them multiple copies of the Book of Mormon for their congregations to use.
“In time, Johnson moved his proselyting efforts from Accra to Cape Coast and did his best to organize the Church, eventually establishing several branches with hundreds of members in Ghana. For years, he led the members in regular fasts, pleading for missionaries from Salt Lake to come and establish the Church among them” (Maki, “A People Prepared,” history.lds.org).
For more information regarding the Martins family and Joseph William Billy Johnson, see the commentary titled “The significance of extending priesthood ordination to all worthy male members of the Church and temple blessings to every worthy Church member” in this chapter.
The scriptures and Church history contain many examples of prophets seeking divine guidance from the Lord to direct His work and Church on the earth. Before 1978 the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had discussed the priesthood restriction on numerous occasions and had earnestly prayed about it. Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated: “Obviously, the Brethren have had a great anxiety and concern about [the priesthood and temple restrictions] for a long period of time” (“All Are Alike unto God,” 3, speeches.byu.edu; “The New Revelation on Priesthood,” 132). President Gordon B. Hinckley explained: “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” (“Priesthood Restoration,” 70). President David O. McKay, for example, studied the matter, but “after praying for guidance, [he] did not feel impressed to lift the ban” (“Race and the Priesthood,” Gospel Topics Essays, topics.lds.org).
When President Spencer W. Kimball became the President of the Church, the priesthood restriction became a particular concern to him. He provided the following account of his own efforts to receive divine guidance regarding the matter: “I knew that something was before us that was extremely important to many of the children of God. I knew that we could receive the revelations of the Lord only by being worthy and ready for them and ready to accept them and put them into place. 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 want only the thing that thou dost want, and we want it when you want it and not until’” (Teachings: Spencer W. Kimball, 238).
On June 1, 1978, members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles met in the Salt Lake Temple. They had come fasting. President Gordon B. Hinckley recalled:
“Each first Thursday of the month is a day for fasting and the bearing of testimony by the General Authorities of the Church. So many of the Brethren are absent from home on the first Sunday of the month because of assignments to stake conferences that we hold our monthly testimony meeting in an upper room of the Salt Lake Temple the first Thursday of the month. The Thursday of which I speak was June 1, 1978. 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, while there remained the president of the Church, his two Counselors, and ten members of the Council of the Twelve—two being absent, one in South America and the other in the hospital” (“Priesthood Restoration,” 69–70).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie recounted:
“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 [the] upper room [of the temple] pleading with the Lord for an answer to our prayers. … He expressed the hope that we might receive a clear answer [from the Lord] one way or the other so the matter might be laid to rest.
“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. This session continued for somewhat more than two hours. Then President Kimball suggested that we unite in formal prayer and said, modestly, that if it was agreeable with the rest of us he would act as voice” (“The New Revelation on Priesthood,” in Priesthood, 127–28).
Elder McConkie also described the feeling of unity that existed among those present as President Kimball offered the prayer:
“In his prayer President Kimball asked that all of us might be cleansed and made free from sin so that we might receive the Lord’s word. He counseled freely and fully with the Lord, was given utterance by the power of the Spirit, and what he said was inspired from on high. It was one of those rare and seldom-experienced times when the disciples of the Lord are perfectly united, when every heart beats as one, and when the same Spirit beats in every bosom. …
“It was during this prayer that the revelation came” (“The New Revelation on Priesthood,” in Priesthood, 126, 128).
Beginning with President Brigham Young, prophets of the Church had declared that sometime in God’s eternal plan all of the blessings of the priesthood and temple would be given to those from whom these blessings had once been withheld. This “long-promised day” came on June 1, 1978, when the Lord confirmed through revelation to President Spencer W. Kimball, his counselors in the First Presidency, and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that “all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color” (Official Declaration 2).
President Spencer W. Kimball later testified: “We had the glorious experience of having the Lord indicate clearly that the time had come when all worthy men and women everywhere can be fellowheirs and partakers of the full blessings of the gospel. I want you to know, as a special witness of the Savior, how close I have felt to him and to our Heavenly Father as I have made numerous visits to the upper rooms in the temple, going on some days several times by myself. The Lord made it very clear to me what was to be done” (Teachings: Spencer W. Kimball, 239).
Some members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles later described the spiritual witness they received when the revelation ending the priesthood and temple restrictions was given. President Gordon B. Hinckley, who was serving as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1978, testified:
“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 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.
“All of us knew that the time had come for a change and that the decision had come from the heavens. The answer was clear. There was perfect unity among us in our experience and in our understanding” (“Priesthood Restoration,” 70).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie affirmed that the revelation came to each individual who was present during the meeting in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 1978:
“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. … 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. … 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” (“All Are Alike unto God,” 4, speeches.byu.edu; “The New Revelation on Priesthood,” in Priesthood, 133–34).
Elder David B. Haight (1906–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared his testimony of the revelation that was received on June 1, 1978:
“I was in the temple when President Spencer W. Kimball received the revelation regarding the priesthood. I was the junior member of the Quorum of the Twelve. I was there. 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.
“But 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 said, “Mormons Give Blacks Priesthood.” And the subheading said, “President Kimball Claims to Have Received a Revelation.” I bought a copy of the newspaper. I stared at one word in that subheading—claims. It stood out to me just like it was 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 know, 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” (“This Work Is True,” Ensign, May 1996, 23).
The revelation to President Spencer W. Kimball ending the priesthood restriction had a profound impact on the Church, its members, and people throughout the world. Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that this revelation “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 of salvation and exaltation. This is a revelation of tremendous significance” (“All Are Alike unto God,” 4, speeches.byu.edu; “The New Revelation on Priesthood,” in Priesthood, 134–35).
For black men of African descent, ordination to the priesthood meant that they could baptize their children, administer priesthood blessings, and serve as home teachers and full-time missionaries. The revelation also extended to all black Church members the blessings of temple ordinances, including the opportunity to be sealed for eternity as families.
Helvécio Martins recalled how he and his wife, Rudá, reacted to the announcement of the revelation: “I could not contain my emotions. Rudá and I went into our bedroom, knelt down, and prayed. We wept as we thanked our Father in Heaven for an event we had only dreamed about. The day had actually arrived, and in our mortal lives” (The Autobiography of Elder Helvecio Martins, 69–70). The Martins family was sealed in the São Paulo Brazil Temple. Their son, Marcus, was among the first Church members of African descent to serve a mission after the priesthood restriction was lifted. Elder Martins remembered: “One week after Marcus and I received the Aaronic Priesthood, we were ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood. President João Eduardo Keminy of the Rio de Janeiro-Niteroi Stake ordained me an elder, after which I put my hands on the head of my son and, with the assistance of others in the circle, conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood on him. I felt I would explode with joy, happiness, and contentment. What an incredible experience for me and for Marcus” (The Autobiography of Elder Helvecio Martins, 70–71). Helvécio Martins served as a local priesthood leader in Brazil and eventually was called as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.
In Ghana, Joseph William Billy Johnson “heard the news around midnight at the end of a hard day when he was compelled to tune his radio to BBC before going to bed.
“‘I jumped and started crying and rejoicing in the Lord with tears that now is the time that the Lord will send missionaries to Ghana and to other parts of Africa to receive the priesthood,’ he remembered. ‘I was so happy indeed.’
“When missionaries finally arrived a few months later, they were directed to Johnson’s chapel in Cape Coast, Ghana, where they found ‘a large statue of the Angel Moroni standing on a ball and blowing a trumpet. There were also pictures of the Bible and the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, the Tabernacle Choir, and other Latter-day Saint scenes.’
“Many of the members of Johnson’s congregations requested baptism, and on the first day thirty-four people were interviewed for the ordinance. The missionaries spent an afternoon and into the evening hours baptizing new members, with several more arriving at Johnson’s home in tears that night, having walked from a distant village in hopes of being baptized that day.
“Within a few days, the Cape Coast Branch had been organized with Joseph William Billy Johnson as branch president” (“A People Prepared,” history.lds.org).
Approximately 600 members of Brother Johnson’s congregation were baptized (see Johnson, “We Felt the Spirit of the Pioneers,” in “All Are Alike unto God,” 22). After faithfully waiting for 14 years, Joseph William Billy Johnson had finally become a member of the Lord’s Church. “After serving as the Cape Coast branch’s first president, [Brother] Johnson went on to serve as a district president, a full-time missionary, and as patriarch of the Cape Coast Ghana Stake” (“A People Prepared,” history.lds.org).
As a result of the revelation ending the priesthood restriction, missionaries today preach the gospel in many countries in Africa, temples have since been built on that continent, and hundreds of thousands of people of African descent have received the ordinances of the gospel for themselves and for their deceased ancestors. Today Church members of African descent throughout the world experience meaningful integration and unity with their fellow Saints as they strive to become “one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).