“Lesson 56: Official Declaration 2,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual (2017)
“Lesson 56,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual
As missionary work spread across the world during the 20th century, Church leaders prayed for 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.
To help students understand the historical context of Official Declaration 2, explain that “from the mid-1800s until 1978[,] the Church did not ordain men of black African descent to its priesthood or allow black men or women to participate in temple endowment or sealing ordinances” (“Race and the Priesthood,” Gospel Topics, topics.lds.org).
Invite students to consider how they might respond if they were asked to explain why these restrictions were instituted.
Invite a student to read aloud the introduction to Official Declaration 2 found in the 2013 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what this paragraph teaches about “the origins,” or beginnings, of these restrictions.
What does the introduction to Official Declaration 2 teach us about the origins of the restrictions on priesthood and temple blessings?
Point out that while some have suggested reasons for the priesthood and temple restrictions, these explanations are personal opinions and may not be accurate. Display the following statement, and invite a student to read it aloud:
“Some explanations with respect to [the priesthood restriction] 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; see also “Race and the Priesthood,” Gospel Topics, topics.lds.org).
Explain that Official Declaration 2 contains a letter dated June 8, 1978, to Church leaders throughout the world announcing a revelation President Spencer W. Kimball had received. Invite a student to read the first paragraph of the letter aloud (beginning under the words “Dear Brethren”). Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Church leaders said they had “witnessed” throughout the earth.
What had Church leaders witnessed?
Explain that in the 1960s and early 1970s, thousands of people of African descent learned of the truthfulness of the gospel and desired to be baptized. Individuals in countries such as Nigeria and Ghana pleaded for missionaries to be sent to Africa. For years Church leaders prayerfully considered their requests but did not feel the time was right. Without the priesthood, local members would be unable to preside over congregations or perform essential ordinances. In Brazil, a growing number of black members served faithfully in the Church. Many also contributed generously to the building of the São Paulo Brazil Temple even though they would not be allowed to enter the temple because of the restriction.
What desire were Church leaders inspired with as they witnessed this expansion of the Lord’s work?
Invite a student to read aloud the second paragraph of the letter recorded in Official Declaration 2 (beginning with “Aware of the promises”). Ask the class to follow along, looking for what else contributed to Church leaders’ desire to extend all gospel blessings to every worthy Church member.
What else contributed to this desire?
How did Church leaders act on this desire?
What principle can we identify from this paragraph about what prophets do as they guide the Church? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: Prophets seek divine guidance to know the Lord’s will concerning the Church.)
Remind students of the scenario you presented at the beginning of the lesson.
When discussing the decisions and teachings of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, why is it helpful to remember that prophets seek divine guidance to know the Lord’s will concerning the Church?
Point out that in 1978, President Kimball became especially concerned regarding the priesthood and temple restrictions, and he often pondered and prayed in the temple about the issue. He also frequently counseled with other General Authorities and invited them to express their feelings on the subject. (See Bruce R. McConkie, “The New Revelation on Priesthood,” in Priesthood , 127).
Invite a student to read aloud the following account by President Kimball:
“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 [Salt Lake] 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 of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball , 238).
What stands out to you about President Kimball’s efforts to seek the Lord’s guidance?
How can President Kimball’s example help us as we seek the Lord’s guidance?
Explain that on June 1, 1978, members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles met in the Salt Lake Temple. They had come to the temple fasting. President Kimball brought up their previous discussions about extending priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy Church members. He asked each person present to share his views regarding the matter. President Kimball then suggested they unite in prayer.
Invite a student to read aloud the third and fourth paragraphs of the letter recorded in Official Declaration 2 (beginning with “He has heard our prayers”). Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Lord responded to the prayerful pleadings of these Church leaders.
What did the Lord confirm to President Kimball and other Church leaders by revelation?
What doctrine can we identify from these paragraphs regarding how the Church is led and directed? (After students respond, write the following doctrine on the board: The Lord directs His Church through revelation to His prophets.)
To further illustrate this truth, invite two students to read aloud the following accounts by President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) and Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who related what they experienced when the June 1, 1978, revelation was received:
“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. …
“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. …
“… 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” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Priesthood Restoration,” Ensign, Oct. 1988, 70).
“On this occasion, because of the importuning and the faith, and because the hour and the time had arrived, the Lord … 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” (Bruce R. McConkie, “All Are Alike unto God” [Church Educational System Religious Educators’ Symposium, Aug. 18, 1978, 4, speeches.byu.edu).
Based on Elder McConkie’s account, why did the revelation come when it did? (You might emphasize that the revelation came as result of importuning in faith and because the hour and time had arrived.)
What do you think is significant about each individual member of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles receiving the same confirming revelation from the Lord?
Refer to the two truths written on the board: “Prophets seek divine guidance to know the Lord’s will concerning the Church” and “The Lord directs His Church through revelation to His prophets.”
How can understanding these truths help us have faith to follow the counsel that prophets receive from the Lord?
Ask students to consider times in their lives when they felt or came to know that the Lord directs His Church through revelation to His prophets. Invite a few students to share their experiences with the class. Consider sharing your own experience as well.
Testify that the Lord does reveal His will to His prophets, and encourage students to follow the counsel and leadership of the Lord’s prophets.
Explain that the letter announcing the June 1, 1978, revelation was issued on June 8, 1978. A few months later, President N. Eldon Tanner of the First Presidency presented the revelation to Church members at the semiannual general conference for a sustaining vote.
Invite a student to read aloud the second paragraph of Official Declaration 2 (beginning with “In early June of this year”). Ask the class to follow along, looking for what President Kimball asked President Tanner to tell Church members about the revelation. Ask students to report what they find.
Why do you think it would have been important for Church members to know that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles unanimously approved the revelation?
Explain that Church members in attendance at the conference unanimously accepted the revelation “as the word and will of the Lord” (Official Declaration 2). As a result of the revelation ending the priesthood and temple restrictions, missionaries now preach the gospel in nearly every country 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 their deceased ancestors.
Conclude the lesson by inviting a few students to share their testimonies of modern-day prophets and the truths identified in this lesson.