The digital airwaves are certainly heating up over the Church's recent statement on the history of black's receiving the priesthood. In case you missed it, I blogged it on Saturday, December 14, 2013.
However, the Church recently added three other topic pages to its website that are also significant:
Hopefully, all the recent additions can put to rest much of the controversy that has swirled, and is still swirling, over our beliefs.
I don't expect it to put an end to all the false witness about it, just the unintentional false witness. I'll address false witness itself in the near future.
Sometimes we wish we had some of the great prophets still with us, like Moses, Elijah and Isaiah. It's sad to think they belong to another time and another place.
However, Heavenly Father gives us living prophets we can look to for truth and guidance. In fact, Heavenly Father Communicates To Us Through Prophets.
Someday, history may well raise the stature of current living prophets to that of past prophets. In addition, our current living prophet is someone we can know right now. We don't have to rely on just a few words that happened to be preserved across time.
We may even have personal interaction with him ourselves as young Stockton Cram did this past October.
Photo courtesy of © 2013 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. President Thomas S. Monson shakes hands with a boy at the Saturday afternoon session of general conference, 5 October 2013.
The Church just added a new topic page to its website. Race and the Priesthood expands on the new header for Official Declaration 2 in the 2013 edition of the LDS scriptures. What this means, in a nutshell, is that the Church has documented our historical understanding of how and why blacks were denied the priesthood.
Before recollections such as my own are erased by time or dementia, I want to add what witness I can to what occurred before and after that historic day, 8 June 1978 when I was 16 years old. (Go ahead, do the math, I'm 51.)
- There was never any official reason for why blacks were denied the priesthood. We didn't know why. No one knew.
Being an inquisitive child, I always wanted to know why. I asked many people and got many explanations. It became clear to me that the various explanations were all just theories.
When I was able to pin down people that should have known, they would admit that they didn't know why and that the Church had never given an official explanation. However, that didn't stop some of them from advancing their theories. This muddied the waters, then and now. Many ordinary people and historians alike still proffer their theories as the truth.
If a 16 year old kid, like myself, could unearth the real truth, it was knowable to others, then and now.
- It was never a question of whether blacks would eventually be ordained to the priesthood. It was always a question of when.
We all knew the time would come when blacks would be allowed to have the priesthood, we just didn't know when it would occur. In 1852, Brigham Young said it would occur some time in the future. Footnote eight on the topic page gives this reference:
Brigham Young, Speeches Before the Utah Territorial Legislature, Jan. 23 and Feb. 5, 1852, George D. Watt Papers, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, transcribed from Pitman shorthand by LaJean Purcell Carruth; "To the Saints," Deseret News, April 3, 1852, 42.
Young's teaching from 1852 reached into my day. We knew it was a question of when, not if.
The other supporting source is a transcribed document from Pitman shorthand. This is a recent discovery from the Lost Sermons project. It supports what we have always known, the ban would end.
This doesn't stop critics from crediting themselves for the change. Outside LDS circles, people tend to believe the policy change came from outside pressure, not revelation. What I remember from 1978 is that the revelation came out of the blue.
I remember news commentators' astonishment, because pressure on the Church had diminished and was nearly non-existent when the change came. People had basically given up exerting pressure on the Church to change.
Photo courtesy of © 2008 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. Close to 3,000 people gathered to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the June 1978 revelation that extended the Church's lay priesthood to men of all races.
Reflecting back on church activities when I was a teen causes me some regret, not because of what I did, but because of the activities themselves. Some of them just filled up time, were fun and kept us out of any overt trouble.
Much of the time could have been put to greater use. Perhaps the Church agrees, because the new Youth Activity website certainly solves all of those problems.
"When it comes to youth activities in the Church, the typical question is 'What are we going to do?'" said Mike Madsen, project manager for the new youth activity website created by the Church. "That question needs to change to 'Who needs our help?' 'What activity can we do to help the less active come to church?' or 'What do we need to do now to prepare for our future?' Activities should be based on needs and interests and planned with a purpose."
Find details from the announcement and visit the new website yourself.
Photo courtesy of © Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that serving others and the community is one of the characteristics of the true followers of Jesus Christ. Young people in particular learn principles of good citizenship that will help make them strong members of their communities.