This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. The day of the revelation marks the point at which priesthood and temple blessings became available to all worthy male members of the Church and to the world. Let me read Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s account of that setting from his talk of August 18, 1978 at BYU. “On the first day of June in this year, 1978, the First Presidency and the Twelve, after full discussion of the proposition and all the premises and principles that are involved, importuned the Lord for a revelation. President Kimball was mouth and he prayed with great faith and great fervor; this was one of those occasions when an inspired prayer was offered. You know the Doctrine and Covenants statement, that if we pray by the power of the Spirit we will receive answers to our prayers and it will be given us what we shall ask (see D&C 50:30). It was given President Kimball what he should ask. He prayed by the power of the Spirit, and there was perfect unity, total and complete harmony, between the Presidency and the Twelve on the issue involved.”
In preparing for my remarks this evening, my first thought was to try to quantify the progress made since the revelation. My daughter made the point that the better approach is to ask “How has the priesthood revelation changed your life?” And so that question was posed to several of my friends. Let me share two of those responses:
From a friend who started a foundation in Chicago to address the needs of our inner city youth to have uplifting, righteous experiences during the dangerous time of summer in the city:
“We have made absolutely extraordinary progress since 1978! The number of individual, personal bridges between the races that have been built is magnificent. I think of my parents who were raising a family a few miles from the 1960’s Watts riots. Their experience with black people was on TV. During the riots my Dad went and bought our family’s only gun. Then there is naïve me. I thought that racism was out-of-date, that only people in southern bayous and low I.Q. old-timers still carried prejudices. Then I moved to Chicago and entered into a wonderful experience observing and experiencing the interracial interactions that the Church environment provided. I learned a lot about myself and the absolute power of Christ-like love. We had so many tender, learning moments as a family. My parents love the people from our Chicago ward and all of the young Summer Quarters campers that my Dad served as camp counselor for during two summers.”
“I have a hard time measuring institutional progress. But these personal experiences are being repeated in thousands of lives every year. The progress has been absolutely huge. Do we have a ways to go? Yes. We have a very long way to go. But we are raising a generation so much less color conscious than the last one. The more we live our lives so that we can feel the spirit, the more we know that we are all brothers and sisters. I have great hope for the future.”
From one of my daughter’s friends at BYU: “I get angry in Sunday School when somebody brings up the debunked less-valiant theory, or dwells on the Lamanite curse as though it’s about color. When I returned to Louisiana for a week in 1997, I was amazed by the progress they’d made there. About a third of the old ward were now Mormons in “living color”. Every leadership group was racially balanced. A Black deacon passed me the sacrament. An African-American Relief Society president was so thrilled when I substituted for the pianist with a broken wrist, she asked, “What would it take to get you to move in?” And I was touched to tears hearing all the Seminary students and their teachers, one of each color, speaking that day.”
I, personally, cannot begin to count the wonderful people who have so blessed by life. There have been loving, eternal relationships established. I have been absorbed in precious families as demonstrated by being included at temple weddings, baby blessings, missionary farewells and homecomings, funerals and Sunday/holiday meals. We have shared joys and sorrows.
I came into the Church based on its teachings and the degree of correlation of those teachings with the behavior of most of the members. This coming together of belief and behavior is one of the “hooks” that brought me in and keeps me in. Early in my membership, I came to know the healing power of the priesthood directly and indirectly. I have a long-time friend who is not a member who has a firm and abiding testimony of the healing power of the Priesthood in her life. I have also been blessed to observe righteous priesthood holders functioning according to the Lord’s words given to Brother Joseph in Section 121. I have observed the persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned and know that these are traits of the Savior himself.
Brother Joseph directed that “we are to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to provide for the widow, to dry the tears of the orphan, to comfort the afflicted, whether in this church or in any other church, or no church at all.” And all of these are done under the leadership of the Priesthood.
We are so blessed to have direction, counsel, and guidance from our dear prophet, Pres. Thomas S. Monson. We cherish him and the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ along with the Quorums of the Seventy, the Area Authorities, and our stake presidents, bishops, and home teachers.
As I observe what the Church does, as I join with my brothers and sisters of all races to do the Lord’s work, I know that I am in the right place, indeed this is the place. All of the wonderful Saints and their children have nourished and strengthened me, and have enabled me to stand here tonight and recall the words of J. Reuben Clark, Jr.: “The building of character in the members of the Church, givers and receivers, rescuing all that is finest down deep inside of them, and bringing to flower and fruitage the latent richness of the spirit, which after all is the mission and purpose and reason for being of this Church.”
Where do we go from here? Just as when the revelation was first announced there were those who rejected it, so it is today that there are those who prefer to hold on to teachings of the past. Elder McConkie’s words addressed that in 1978: “And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understand and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.”
I believe that we must reach out to those who lack understanding about this matter and we must reach out with an ever increasing measure of love that we might help them come unto Christ and by so doing, help ourselves to come unto Christ. In 3rd Nephi 12:44-45 we are told, “But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good. “
Since our coming in chains to this land, it was the blessing of forgiving that enabled us to survive. Today, we are capable of even more, we are capable of loving those who do not love us.
Since the revelation, it has been estimated that approximately 1 million persons of African descent are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They have come to join with the saints in learning of Christ and serving our God for, as we are told in Mosiah 2:17: “that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”
In closing, I quote from the words of the song, Faith in Every Footstep by Kay Newell Dayley:
A marvelous work has begun to come forth among all the children of men. O ye that embark in the service of God, give heart, mind, and strength unto him; For prophets have spoken and angels have come to lift the world from sin, That Christ may reign over all the earth and bless his gathered kin.
Those marvelous Saints who embraced this great work and shared it in lands far and near Who gave all their heart, mind, and strength to the Lord with wisdom and vision so clear;Now stand as examples of virtue and faith, of souls prepared to hear, Of knowledge sure, born of humble heart, and love that banished fear.
If we now desire to assist in this work and thrust in our sickle with might, If we will embark in the service of God to harvest in fields that are white; Our souls may receive the salvation of God—the fullness of his light, That we may stand, free of sin and blame, God’s glory in our sight.
With faith in every footstep, we follow Christ, the Lord; And filled with hope through his pure love, we sing with one accord.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.