Where were you 8/6/78?

Some of you may be familiar with the Genesis newsletter. For an article in that newsletter, we’d like to get responses to three questions. Comments in this thread may appear in the forthcoming article.

1) Where were you on June 8th, 1978? (If you don’t know what this refers to, then you are probably too young to answer these questions.)

2) What was your reaction?

3) What changes have you seen in the Church since that time?

Comments

  1. I remember vaguely standing in the hay yard of my parents’ farm while a couple of people were discussing it, but I don’t remember specifically how I heard, or who those people were. I was 19 at the time and had read the Lester Bush Dialogue article, and remember being very happy that this had occurred, and very surprised. All I remember specifically about the conversation in the yard was that the people in the conversation were not happy and a few racial terms were used. My dad was fairly bigoted and he would have been comfortable with the way the conversation was going. I didn’t say anything. It’s probably good that I don’t remember who the others from the ward were. Later that night, I went to a wedding reception of a couple of friends– their reception was kind of taken over by discussion of the revelation, all positive.

    I don’t know about changes. I guess that the kind of bigotry that I heard that day couldn’t be expressed nearly so openly now. But I’m sure it still exists, at least among the older folks in my own family. I do think that younger folks in the church are not nearly as racist as my generation was at the time. (Hopefully my generation’s gotten better too.)

  2. Well, I’m pretty sure June 8, 1978 was a Thursday. Four days after my 8th birthday. I was probably in school dreaming of Field Day.

  3. I was at work as a secretary in the Fire Prevention Bureau of the Clark County Fire Department, Las Vegas. The radio was on, and at the top of the hour there was a minute or two of news. It was really so unexpected that there was no reason for me to believe a local newscaster reporting something that wild, but I knew instantly that it was an accurate bulletin, and it made me so happy. There wasn’t anybody to share it with — I was the only Latter-day Saint in the building at the time, and probably the only one who noticed the announcement.

    An hour or two later, an LDS inspector came through the door. We looked at each other, grinned, and he picked me up completely off the floor and swung me around in a circle, all without saying anything. It was one of the high points of my life, one of the few “big moments” that I can remember with such clarity. I really can’t explain why that was so, since this had not been of any special concern to me to that point. Possibly it was because I realized that I was witnessing one of the great prophesied moments in the history of the world, not because I had struggled or prayed for the moment to come.

  4. I was 3 and a half years old in Romania on June 8, 1978.

  5. I was 12 years old and only dimly aware there was a ban (embarrassing but true). I was in our back yard and my mother brought back the hot-off-the-driveway Deseret News and showed it to me. My reaction: “Oh, cool.”

  6. P.S. to (3). I’m afraid someone will read my “hadn’t prayed for it to come” as meaning I hadn’t wanted it to come or am not happy about it now. That isn’t what I meant at all. It came then like an unexpected gift, one that was exactly what I wanted without having known I wanted it until I saw it, instead of coming as a relief or satisfaction for something I had been seeking.

  7. Left Field says:

    I was a BYU student and was sitting in the honors reading room in the HBLL. I really had nothing to do with the honors program, but I liked to keep good company. A student I knew mostly by sight came into the room bursting with excitement. I caught a few words of her conversation with a friend; some big news about President Kimball. I asked what it was all about, and she gave me the news. My reaction was the same as everyone else I met on campus: stunned euphoria. The news spread like wildfire. The conversations went something like this:

    “Did you hear…?”
    “Yeah.”
    “Wow.”

    I don’t remember meeting anyone who wasn’t ecstatic.

    Things have never been the same. It’s difficult to remember what it was like before that date. I agree that there’s still a lot of residual folklore that should be dealt with, but as welcome as such a statement may be, I bristle at any suggestion that June 8 doesn’t really count for anything until the church issues that statement. The change has been huge.

  8. I was four. That’s all I’ve got.

  9. John & Susan, I feel you. I was 5 and still riding high from seeing Return From Witch Mountain (seriously, I remember that movie but not the lifting of the ban).

  10. When I first heard the announcement I was in the foyer at my church with a black male member of our congregation. He turned to me and asked me if I was aware of how important this was. I had to admit I was too young (11) to have even realized that until then he could not receive the priesthood. My ignorance!! I was embarassed and ashamed.
    At every major crossroad in church doctrine, introduction of plural marriage, sucession of Brigham Young, end of plural marriage, etc. The church has had factions split off. But I know of no faction that split from the church over this change.
    What I am trying to say is that racism in the church is mostly ignorance. Once we were pushed to make the next step, we made it together. We have a few more steps to go. The question is can we make them without having to be pushed?

  11. Aaron Brown says:

    I was in the sandbox, shoveling dirt, playing with my toys, and telling all my friends how the priesthood ban was “a policy not a doctrine,” and disparaging the Curse of Cain as “Mormon cultural balderdash” (my phrase).

    What can I say? I was a precocious child.

    AB

  12. I was five, too. Probably in kindergarten, singing a song with Mrs. Lauderdale.

  13. I am sooooo old …

  14. Left Field says:

    Duh. I just realized: It’s been thirty years!

  15. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    I was 7, and knew nothing of the ban, but I remember the day. I recall my father coming home and telling my mom. I remember that my reaction was that this was a priesthood thing, so it was his job to inform the rest of us about such matters. I thought he had received the bulletin as a result of his holding the priesthood. It wasn’t until much later that I realized the news had been broadcast widely. Again, I was 7.

  16. Mark IV says:

    . . .sitting in the honors reading room in the HBLL. I really had nothing to do with the honors program, but I liked to keep good company . . .

    Left Field, me too! We missed each other by 1 year.

    I was driving, on my way from class to pick up my wife from work when I heard it on the car radio. I greeter her by saying “Did you hear …?” and that was as far as I got. She nodded, already knowing the rest of the question.

    What changes have you seen in the Church since that time?

    Last night I went to the temple and was greeted at the door by a temple president and matron who are African-American.

  17. It’s just been begging for this answer, but in the spirit world, looking on all of the ecstatic responses.

  18. Darrell says:

    There was a stake Priesthood meeting that night. I remember them reading the letter from the stand. I was overjoyed! I was awed that I was alive and aware at such an historic time. However, my joy turned to sadness when, on the ride home, my EQ president said. “Wow, this opens up lots of possibilities. This means that my daughter could marry a black man in the temple–and I certianly don’t want that to happen.” I loved this man, but I lost a lot of respect for him that day.

  19. Ardis, I’m jealous that you have those memories.

  20. Ardis, you’re in good company. I was in my mid twenties, at work for a distributor of electronic components, and my wife called me from home with the news. Stunned is probably the best reaction I can think of. At the time, the whole priesthood ban had dropped off the radar from the more turbulent days of the late 60’s and early 70’s, so it wasn’t an everyday topic of conversation. It was totally unexpected. Except in Aaron’s sandbox. I wish I could say that it was something I had been praying for, but it wasn’t. It was something I had wished for, but I was, I fear, resigned to the status quo.

    I do remember it being just a beautiful early summer day, and then just feeling happy, that all was right with the world. I remember watching KSL news later that evening, and they were asking people on the street about the announcement. Most were positive, but I remember one older guy in his 60’s, who said “I haven’t heard that. I don’t believe it”. He was the sole negative response that I recall seeing or hearing, and it took some of the luster off that day.

  21. I was in Mexico and received the news from my bishop’s wife–in Spanish. She was weeping with joy. I was twenty-three years, and had been deeply troubled by the restriction for at least a decade. (Yes, a decade. I dropped out of seminary because my seminary teacher used the “N” word. I was fourteen at the time.) I remember that on June 8th, 1978, something within me calmed down and I was simply filled with gratitude.

    Btw, we really are serious about publishing some responses on the Genesis newsletter, so your posting is also your release. If you want us to use your real name rather than a pseudonym, e-mail me personally. I’m at BYU–easy to find.

  22. Mark IV–PLEASE e-mail me personally. Where do you live?

  23. Changes? One of our bishops in our stake is a African, as in really from Africa. His two sons have now both served missions, one in Texas, the other I believe in Georgia. We have several wards with African-American families and members, and the only time I hear anything about the supposed reasons for the ban are from the older guys in HP Quorum, and even that is rare. Or in the bloggernacle.

    My kids, now pretty much all grown and adult, can hardly fathom what it was like in those days, although two of them have a hard time with the fact that the ban ever even existed, much harder than I have. Thirty years is a long time, even though it really only seems like yesterday to me. I’ve got to go, my granddaughter is out in the sandbox, and had something to say about women in the church.

  24. OHHH One of my favorite memories. I was a sophomore at Jordan HS in Utah. I had been struggling with this issue. I really did not have any AA friends at that time, but I was getting grief from some of my non-member friends. They would say, “Joanna, how can you believe your church is true when your church teaches racist beliefs?” Like Paula I just knew that it was wrong. I could not say much. Well I started praying for the ban to be lifted. Not every prayer, but once a week or so. I really did not think it would happen in my lifetime.

    On June 8th I was holed up in my room reading and listening to records. My siblings were watching TV. They came screaming into my room with the news. Knowing what big jokers they were I pushed them out and locked the door. THey kept pounding on the door and insisting so I went down and listened to the news report. My mom came home a short time later. She had been grocery shopping at Harmons. They made an announcement over the loud speakers. She said that complete strangers were hugging. Bag boys and cashiers were dancing. My mother is not a dancer or a hugger, but she was happy too. I did not hear of one negative comment from anyone that I knew, but there was a big full page rebuttal from some members in the Deseret News.

  25. I had baptized an African American man on my mission in the summer of 1975, about three years before the announcement. Explaining to him that we wanted him to be baptized, but he would not be able to hold the Priesthood was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I was half expecting to be thrown out of his home. When I heard the announcemnet, I was elated, and I thought immediately of him, and hoped that was still active. (He left the country shortly after his baptism, and I had lost touch with him.)

  26. Sorry changes. when I go to the Temple one of the officiators is African American. Some times the hand at the veil is black. I have dear African American friends that I worship with in my ward.

  27. John Scherer says:

    I was in utero and I leaped for joy. Maybe my mom just had gas?

  28. Neal beat me to it in comment #17. I was in the premortal existence as well, but I’m sure I was rejoicing with everyone else there.

  29. I was almost four, so too young to realize, but I have enjoyed so much reading others’ experiences. Thank you. I love the accounts of spontaneous joy over something most had not thought to hope for, just the instant recognition in the deep parts of the soul of something right and wonderful.

    My own mom recounts calling a friend of hers, a black man, and asking if he had heard the news. He replied emphatically, “Oh, yes! And my soul is rocked with joy!”

  30. I was in Zion Canyon with my scout troop, tubing the Virgin River. The assistant scoutmaster, who had been released as bishop a few months earlier, got the attention to deliver the news of a bunch of us as we were walking the tubes back up the road. Everyone treated this as a Big Deal. This was a few months before I was baptized and I didn’t know that this was an issue for the Church, so it was one more piece of education at a time of significant change in my life.

    With this change, the ward and branch I lived in during graduate school were twice as large as they would have been without the black saints I worshipped and served with; that was certainly a blessing. I think these are still early days for black membership in the Church, though, akin to the Church as a whole a century ago when 19 out of 20 members lived in the mountain west. We’re just getting past the stage where “black” and “Mormon” are universally perceived as mutually exclusive characteristics and any combining of the two requires a special explanation.

  31. I had moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico from Utah the year before so I read it in the paper but probably not on the exact date. I had not been active in the Church for 12 years but I still felt joy and relief for the opening of the priesthood to all worthy men. The racism and intolerance I grew up with in Northern Utah was one of the things that drove me from the Church. Like I said last year while studying President Kimball, “If the missionaries could have found me that day they would have had a shot at me.”

  32. Mark B. says:

    [deleted by author--long digression about 08/06/1978 being August 6, 1978]

    It was a Thursday. About noon–maybe 1:00 p.m. I walked into our apartment at 1369 E. Hyde Park Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois. I think I had just finished an exam that morning, but I cannot remember. My wife had the radio on, to WBBM, the CBS affiliate in Chicago. It was background noise, ignored as I greeted my wife and our almost one-year-old son. Then something changed: the voice on the radio sounded familiar, like home. No longer the harsh nasal tones of Chicago, but the warm comfortable tones of a Utah newsman, from KSL in Salt Lake City. As we listened we were at first unbelieving. How could something so wonderful be happening today, not sometime in the “future” whenever that might come? How could we be so blessed–to see the long-awaited day come right now, announced on WBBM-AM, for all the world to hear! And our joy was all vicarious: As the ban’s effect on us was to make us question, and hope, and wish it were not so, so the end of the ban made us rejoice for the young black woman who attended the Hyde Park Branch for whom closed doors had just opened. And for all of her brothers and sisters in the neighborhoods around Hyde Park for whom those doors opened.

    And what a blessing it turned into for us. One of the early converts in that branch was Betty Johnson, who later sang with the Tabernacle Choir and married Ruffin Bridgeforth after the death of his first wife. She became our branch pianist (I was the branch music chairman), and I had to teach her how to play “boring”. Another was Cathy Stokes, of whom enough good cannot be written. She was our son’s nursery leader–I think it was her first calling in the church–and she was fantastic!

    I cannot think about June 8, 1978, without thinking about them–blessed, honored pioneers.

    Since 1980 I’ve lived in Brooklyn, NY, so I’ve seen thousands of Blacks join the church. (I don’t use African-Americans because only some of them are Americans–there are Haitians and Barbadians and Ghanaians and Guyanans and Jamaicans and Dominican Republicans (and probably some Dominican Democrats as well)). Too many to name, and naming a few would do injustice to the many.

    But, a few anyway:

    Reggie Allen: New York native, Marine, introduced to the church and baptized in the mid 1970’s while in the Marines (or perhaps it was the reserves or some veterans’s organization). Was a faithful member throughout his life, even when suffering from the ravages of diabetes. His wife never converted, but he attended and served faithfully to the end.

    Lorenzo Davis: Costa Rican. Was our executive secretary when I served in a stake presidency in the late 1980s. Big bear of a man, with a handshake that would crush your hand if you didn’t prepare. Loving, friendly. A man with 1,000 friends. Died of cancer last year, faithful to the end, mourned and celebrated by thousands.

    David and Evelyn Springer. Barbadians. Quiet, simple, faithful, kind. David served in the bishopric, and then for years in the bishop’s storehouse. He’s gone now but his lovely wife is still active, bringing her sweet spirit into every place she goes.

    Elouise Jardine. American (and part Native American, I believe). Elouise served as the Relief Society president for several years in the late 1980s. Practical, straightforward, faithful. The bishop would tell me that Sister Jardine could speak to the Black women in the ward in a way that he, a paleface from out West, never could. Carrying no historical or cultural baggage, she’d encourage her sisters to stand tall and act like daughters of God.

  33. I had just come home from my mission where we were told not to proselyte in predominantly black neighborhoods and merely invite to church those we inadvertently tracted into. My journal has one entry expressing my disappointment at my inability to share the gospel with a young man about my age I met while tracting. This policy was awkward in integrated areas around military bases. At the time, I didn’t have any black friends who couldn’t hold the priesthood to be personally happy for, but I was overjoyed for the Church and relieved that I would no longer have to defend what I couldn’t understand. Reading the chapters about the lifting of the restriction in Edward Kimball’s most recent biography of SWK have filled my heart with wonder and gratitude for so tenacious and Christ-like a prophet and have shown me a tremendous example of how to petition the Lord.

    In some contrast to my own mission 20 years earlier, my parents served several missions in Africa and the Carribean in the 90s where they taught, baptized, loved and were loved by African people, some of them the first branch presidents, bishops and stake presidents of their new units of the Church.

  34. I was 4 years old. No memories.

  35. Mark B., good thing that was deleted by author! Lex Americana…

  36. Alas, as 3 year old I have no memories; nor do I remember exactly when I first learned about the (then historical) ban, but it has always seemed very alien to me.

    RE: changes
    My African husband can bless our children and one day baptize them.

    [I cannot imagine having to outsource those duties to white members of my family.]

  37. I was 15 and my mom told me. I remember immediately running to my room, grabbing my journal and writing with all the intensity and emotion of an adolescent girl. My journal page is filled with awe and wonder of continuing revelation and the prophet, and also there is a worrisome section on how I just know these are the last days! Prophesies are being fulfilled before my eyes!!

  38. [I cannot imagine having to outsource those duties to white members of my family.]

    ESO, that would be a nightmare I’m not sure my faith could endure…

  39. Oh yeah, and since then I’ve had a wonderful branch president who was African American. I felt so happy when I met him for the first time, just because.

  40. Matt W. says:

    Isn’t 8/6/1978 August 6, 1978?

    I was 11 months and 2 days old on June 8, 1978.

  41. John Scherer says:

    My family was sealed by a wonderful man, who was black. His words still remain with us four years after that great day.

  42. Matt W. says:

    For a really awesome story about June 9, see Blake here.

  43. Matt W. says:

    edit: June 8 not June 9

  44. Left Field says:

    If I am not mistaken, the letter was dated June 8, but the public announcement was not until June 9. Our memories of hearing about the revelation would have been from June 9.

  45. I felt great joy! I thought about it and decided to call the NNACP–Utah chapter. I wanted to talk with a person of color. I asked whoever it was that answered if they had heard the news? They had. I told them, as a member of the church how excited I was, especially for colored people. The person on the phone didn’t share my same degree of excitement but acknowledged it was good news.

  46. I should say NAACP.

  47. Matt W: “Isn’t 8/6/1978 August 6, 1978?”

    Only in America (and maybe the Phillippines).

  48. Matt W. says:

    Steve, you know, you could have mercy on the stupid americans and just type out June…
    /end pointless threadjack

  49. MattW–do you know Blake? I won’t publish someone’s words without their permission (at least their implicit permission). The last entry on his blog was in 2007. I wonder if he’s blogging much anymore.

  50. CS Eric says:

    I was attending my first baptism on my mission to Korea. I was still suffering from jet lag, and wondering why all these people were speaking a different language than the one I had learned in the LTM.

    My mission president, who was a large man, was practically dancing a jig when he got the news from Salt Lake.

    Since there were no black missionaries at the time, and Korea has even fewer blacks than other Americans, I had a couple of years to sort things out before I was anywhere that it made an impact.

    As to its impact now, the senior member of our Stake High Council is black, and until he died a few months ago, one of our High Priest Group leadership was black. I still remember that last interaction I had with him. I am the ward organist, and he was curious watching me play with both my hands and my feet.

  51. Mark B. says:

    Left Field is Right. And Who’s on First.

    The public announcement was made on Friday, June 9. I just went to the NY Times archives: the story was dated June 10, and referred to the June 9 announcement by the church.

    So, all of us who “remembered” what we were doing on June 8, 1978, (except, perhaps, Aaron Brown) were simply dupes of Steve’s powers of suggestion.

    Was that the point of the post, Steve?

  52. Thank you for all the stories; I look forward to reading more. (I was profoundly affected by Terryl Givens when he related his experience on the PBS documentary.)

    Like several others here I was not to be born for several more years.

  53. The biggest impact for me was the following:

    1. My mission amongst the mixed race and Xhosa people of South Africa. Plus Namibia for extra credit. Which included multiple African comps.

    2. My good friends in our ward whom live around the corner from me who are from Nigeria.

    2 events really changed Mormonism for the better 1890 (1904) and 1978 in my view.

  54. Marjorie Conder says:

    This was the morning after our oldest son’s graduation. I was in the kitchen fixing a late breakfast for our son and some of his friends who had had an all night party at our house. The radio was on. Everything stopped as it was announced that “all worthy males could now receive the priesthood.” I have tears in my eyes even now as I type it. The news spread like wildfire. Everyone was calling everyone on the phone, asking if they had heard.

    Many years later while doing an exhibit on Latter-day Saints in West Africa, I again felt great emotion as I realized the power and weight of glory with which this message was received in West Africa, by short wave radio over the BBC. Later, the museum acquired the very short-wave radio over which Joseph William Billy Johnson had heard the news. Brother Johnson was one of the most significant early Black LDS leaders in Black Africa. I was also personally involved in facilitating the museum acquiring his cement Angel Moroni that had been used in his quasi-LDS chapel before the gospel ever came formally to them.

    The only negative I ever personally heard about was related by my brother who was living in Atlanta at the time. One convert member in his ward had joined the Church as the “last bastion of while supremecy.” This member apparently felt betrayed.

    As for myself, all I ever heard was joy and rejoicing.

  55. Marjorie Conder says:

    That’s high school graduation. Hillcrest High for anyone wondering.

  56. Kristine says:

    I was 8. It’s the first time I remember seeing my father cry.

  57. I have to admit, I thought, "about time". I had been living in embarrassment for nearly two decades.

    A few years before a man was excommunicated for baptizing a black man in the Pacific Northwest without permission. I thought that now he was vindicated for having his heart in the right place and leading out where the leadership had not yet gone.

    So the feeling was not so much elation as a respite from irritation. And the question remained, why did it take so long? What was God thinking? Why does God put his Church in such embarrassment?

    I have no idea.

  58. Kevinf says:

    BobW, If I remember the story about the baptism you refer to, he was a bishop, and became a strident critic of the church after his ex-ing. Someone else might know the full story, but I don’t think he came back after 1978.

  59. I’m sure it wasn’t the exact date, but I remember a Black man, a member of our Ward, in the lobby the the Sunday after the fact (maybe a few Sundays later, I was young). I remember the feeling of excitement as members shook his hand and I remember the look on his face and being impressed by his countenance. I have a few fleeting memories of that Ward, but this one remains the strongest. As impressed as I was by the experience, I can only imagine the feelings experienced by the members and their families who were affected personally.

    Not long after that, we moved into an urban unit, with many members of African descent. My mission was 95%+ people of African descent which makes for much exposure, wonderfully positive in some cases and terribly disappointing in others. We also attended Church in South Africa, we saw evidence that there are some specific challenges in that country. In Korea, I worked with the missionaries as they taught and baptized an African-American soldier, who was then barraged with negatives from his family in the US and had stopped attending within months.

    I remember Lorenzo Davis too, a great example of a father, husband, leader and saint.

  60. Left Field says:

    Left Field is Right. And Who’s on First.

    Naturally.

  61. #51–I provided the date, not Steve. He graciously posted it for me. Since I got the news in Mexico, my hearing it was somewhat delayed.
    June 1st: Meeting in the temple with Pres. Kimball and apostles
    June 8: Presentation of the declaration to all members of the Seventy and other GAs. I was under the impression that shortly after that meeting, N.Eldon Tanner met Heber Wolsey (director of public affairs at the time) in “the tunnel” and asked him to read the declaration aloud, to be sure all wording was right, and then to get it to the world-wide press. Heber began reading, then realized what the declaration said, and wept.
    It could well be that the news didn’t fly until June 9th, however. Picky picky. I’ll go with the date on the official declaration.

  62. Mark B–Catherine Stokes will have a prominent role in the commemoration of the priesthood revelation. She is still one helluva lady.

  63. K. Golightly says:

    I was 7 months into my mission, then working in Amiens, France, and teaching a number of black investigators, mostly immigrants from former French colonies in Africa. Our best prospects were a young married couple from Zaire, the Zouyemba’s. They had even attended a Sacrament Meeting, that our branch of about 12 active members held in the second-story “salle” it rented above a store. Until that point in my life, I had accepted the Priesthood ban as a given, without really attempting to understand it. But now I struggled with my companion to prepare a substitute discussion H for this man and his wife. My comp and I had prayed about this for weeks. Around the end of May, I had written a personal letter to my mission president, explaining the reasons I could not reconcile the Church’s policy with my understanding of the gospel. During the first week of June, I received President Arrigona’s 10-page, handwritten reply. His letter reviewed the various doctrinal explanations that had been given, but concluded by saying that the policy didn’t make sense to him either. And he said he hoped and expected that some day in the not too distant future the Lord would correct the practice. A few days later, our zone leaders drove down from Arras for a scheduled work day with us. My comp and I were riding our bikes back to our apartment to rendez-vous with them and the other two elders in our district. The ZLs overtook and stopped us on the road and yelled out their car window to tell us about President Kimball’s revelation. I will never forget the overpowering elatation and gratitude I felt then and there, as I stood straddling my bike on the side of the road, trying to process it all. Thirty years later, I’m still amazed.

  64. I just read Blake’s story (link in #42) and wow–I think the revelation WAS just for him and his investigator, Mary! What a story.

    My most distinct memory of the day I got my own endowments (in the DC temple) is of a young black couple I saw in the hall as I entered: they had just been married and were leaving, him clutching his boxer shorts in his hand. I wished he had had an escort to cover those details for him!

    That is my most pleasant memory of the occassion, and could not have happened without the revelation.

  65. Researcher says:

    Fascinating comments, including Blake’s in the link.

    I was alive but too young to remember this. I’ll have to ask my parents about their experience.

  66. I was a young Laurel and a new convert to the church. I had been told by one of the other young women in my ward about the ban, but wasn’t sure I believed her.

    My Laurel class had raised a large sum of money and were on a super-activity to visit Provo and Salt Lake City (we lived in Northern California). We were driving in two cars across the Nevada desert when we heard the news. We flashed our lights and honked our horn to signal the other car to stop and we all pulled over to the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. The group in the other car had not heard the news, so we were able to tell them. I remember being overwhelmed at hearing such a monumentous thing.

    When we got to our rooms in Provo, we watched the local news commentary about it. I was thrilled to be in Utah that night for such a historic event.

    I can’t really say what changes I’ve noticed, since I don’t really have any memories of the church prior to that time. I do remember being told (by the YW who told me about the ban) to not get involved with a black man because “he won’t be able to take you to the temple.” But being such a new member, I didn’t even really recognize the significance of that.

  67. I remember shortly AFTER attending Sacrament Meeting and having a newly ordained African American Aaronic Priesthood holder passing the Sacrament and seeing members of our congregation refuse to take the Sacrament from him. That incensed me as few other things have in my life. I wanted the Bishop to yank them into his office, rip up their recommends and kick their butts out of the Church. It was a difficult feeling to have. To this day, I don’t know what if anything, he did. I figure the hardest thing will be for them to explain to their Savior, why they wouldn’t take his emblems from a worthy priesthood holder.

  68. I was 3 at the time. But I asked this question of some extended family members as I prepared to teach a sunday school class on the gospel being extended to the gentiles.
    My parents both heard it on the radio and where elated. My mom was so happy she cried. My Grandma heard it on the radio and first called her son-in-law who had served his mission in Brazil. He had been concerned for years about people of African ancestory that he taught. As soon as he heard he cried and then explained that he needed to call Brazil. So then my Grandma called the rest of the family to make sure they had heard. Everyone was elated but not suprised. She then went across the street to her neighbor that she VT. The neighbor was inactive. The neighbor was very upset about the news and made some negative comments about it.
    My Dad said that he grew up being told that the priesthood would eventually be extended to all males. It was just a matter of when. He thought that it might not happen until the millenium because of how racist people can be. He was happy with the news as it would enable to church to spread in all countries.

  69. Kevin Barney says:

    My account is here.

  70. Matt W. says:

    Margaret, Blake comments often here and at NewCoolThang, if you’d like, I will shoot him an e-mail and CC you, so you two can connect.

    Matt W. (you should be able to get my e-mail from this comment.)

  71. queuno says:

    I was 7, less than 2 months away from turning 8. The memory is dim, but when I was baptized in September, an African-American boy was baptized by his father. I don’t think I recognized the significance of it at the time.

  72. Kevin Barney says:

    Margaret, “Blake” is Blake Ostler. He lives in Sandy and practices law in SLC. I think he’s changed his e-mail address since the one I have in my contacts list, but he shouldn’t be hard to track down. I’m sure he’d be fine with you using his account.

  73. My black son has a chance one day to hold the priesthood. He has changes to make, but now it’s up to him. That means the world to me.

    From my post on Mormon Momma:

    The most powerful visual experience I have had in my entire life was in the Atlanta temple years ago. Without getting explicit, when you see the hand of God extended to you – and it is black . . .

    I will never forget that image, and I wish with all my heart every member of the Church could have that same experience. That’s good enough for me, and I pray that some day my black son will “fit in” among our congregation in every way — including racially. If, one day, it is his hand reaching out to a fellow saint, I will die knowing all our efforts were not in vain.

    http://www.mormonmomma.com/index.php/2008/racism-as-a-barrier-to-becoming/

  74. Left Field says:

    To this day, I cannot read OD2 without starting to choke up. Since 1978, I have not belonged to (and seldom attended) a ward outside Utah that did not have some African American members. I belonged to a ward in Detroit that was majority African American, including the bishop. When I served as elders quorum president, one of my counselors was a former member of the Harlem Globetrotters. It all seems so normal now, that is is difficult to remember how things were before.

  75. Kevin Barney says:

    A member of our stake presidency is a black brother named Thomas, who happens to be a friend of mine. We have about a dozen active black members in our ward, by far the most racially diverse ward I’ve ever lived in. We’ve got a ways to go of course, but the changes I’ve seen and experience on a weekly basis are simply wonderful. (I’ve blogged a couple of times recently about some of the black members of my ward.)

    I love when Thomas visits our ward (which also happens to be his home ward). Those dozen black members are sitting there in a sea of mostly white, with some brown. But the unquestioned presiding officer, shown all the deference Mormons give to authority, is a black man, presiding on the stand. My own opinion is that this circumstance is very significant in our ward’s capacity to succesfully integrate new black converts. As we begin to reach a critical mass, it becomes easier and easier to bring other new black converts succesfully into the mix.

    This situation was simply unimaginable back in 1978.

    My freshman year at BYU was 76-77, a year before the revelation. A girl in our student branch (from Chicago) was dating a black student on campus. Since she was from Chicago, she had a comfort level with blacks. But this relationship, although it should have been none of their business, really rubbed some of the guys in the dorm the wrong way. On one occasion I overheard talk of “beating up” the black student for his audacity in dating a white girl. It was just big talk and nothing ever came of it, but that gives you a glimpse of what things were like at that time.

    We have a long way to go, but we have also made huge strides.

  76. I’m glad to see the June 8/9 thing cleared up. I’d thought for quite awhile that it was June 9, but then had seen so many things saying June 8 that I thought I had just misremembered the whole date, including my friends’ wedding day.

  77. BeckySueby says:

    I was 8 looking forward to turning nine in a couple of months. (Now 30 yrs on NOT looking forward to turning 39!) I really don’t think I even knew anything happened. The only significant experience that I’d had w/ the Priesthood was when I was given the option of choosing either my dad or my brother to baptize me the summer before. I chose my dad b/c I was sure that my brother would hold me under way too long on purpose. (That really is the reason.)

    Fourteen years later on my mission I definitely realized how significant it was to have the ban lifted. Surprisingly, there were a lot of Black Africans working in Japan and they would always talk to us as fellow English-speakers. A husband and wife, another woman and two other men all joined the church in Kawagoe. The men truly honored the Priesthood they held.
    My comp and I met another man from Ghana who lived in the next district over and we helped coordinate his meeting the elders there. The elders actually asked us to call him occasionally and check on his progress. We got permission from the MP to attend his baptism and his joy was overwhelming. He became, and hopefully still is, a strong member and joyful Priesthood holder.
    I am so thankful that the ban was lifted. I can’t imagine not being able to have had these experiences on my mission. (I also can’t imagine being denied a blessing because of the color of my skin.)
    Thank you to all who were more aware of conditions before the ban was lifted for sharing your memories of this monumental event.

  78. This probably deserves its own post somewhere, but since I don’t actively blog anymore (just irritate people with my own comments) …

    I was in a distant city a few weeks ago, in an urban ward, and I noted that about a third of the congregants were white, a third were black, and a third were BYU-alum-now-law-students (hehe). I’ve never seen such “bonding” at a Church. I actually can’t wait for my next trip to this city, so that I can feel of that spirit. People didn’t have much money. A lot of the ward rode the subway in. A lot of the ward wore the best sweatshirt they had. But this outsider couldn’t detect any shame or resentment — the people I saw greeted each other warmly, hugged, were genuinely happy to see each other.

    A big change in the Church from 30 years ago? Yes. The Church isn’t perfect, but here’s a ward that is truly colorblind and looks, like the Lord, upon each other’s hearts.

  79. sister blah 2 says:

    #73–Ray, that image is so vivid and beautiful in my mind that I feel like I have actually seen it. With any luck, I’ll have the privilege one day. Thank you so much for sharing.

  80. Ann Allred says:

    I remember so distinctly–I was a sophomore at BYU. A friend took me up riding a motorcycle on Y mountain– it was a beautiful summer day. When we came down the mountain back down to Park Plaza, there was a special Daily Universe edition or flyer about it. Everyone was ecstatic.

    Now, forward 30 years, I have the privilege of being friends with Marcus and Mirian Martins here at BYU Hawaii. Marcus is from Brazil and was the first black member to serve a mission. They were engaged to be married, but decided to postpone it until he completed a mission. They are wonderful wonderful people. A true blessing in my life.

  81. Mark B. says:

    Minor threadjack:

    People didn’t have much money. A lot of the ward rode the subway in.

    These sentences from queuno’s comment fulfill his parenthetical quip: they irritate me.

    The implication that public transportation is for the poor is a damnable lie propounded by the automobile manufacturers 60 years ago and is a major cause of the mess that many of our cities have become.

    For his contribution, I nominate queuno for the Robert Moses Memorial Prize in City Planning. :-)

  82. I was five years old at the time of the announcement, so no real recollections for me. However, my now-deceased dad’s journal from that day talks of his suprise at the timing since he had heard that blacks would receive the priesthood probably in the millenium.

    Not to threadjack, but can someone tell me where this idea came from – that blacks would obtain the priesthood in the millenium? And did anyone else have that same reaction? I’ve heard other lay members reference it, so I assume it was a somewhat commonplace idea, but I can’t find any GA quotes on the subject. Is this an example of true folklore, or were there authorities talking about it? I’d love to know.

  83. kristine N says:

    I was 8 days old :)

  84. John Taber says:

    I was five years old – preschool had ended two days before. I remember quite a bit from that month in great detail, but it would be several years before I knew anything had happened that day.

  85. Researcher says:

    Well, this has been an interesting demographic study. A large percentage of the commenting readers on BCC seem to be in their 30s.

  86. #82, Hunter. I don’t know that I am qualified to answer your questions, but I can give my perspective at the time. This was an issue for me, as I was on my mission in Las Vegas, my first area, in 1974. We taught a young 17 year old black teenage boy. We had to teach him about the priesthood issue, and we were aware of the many different explanations for why the ban might exist, but we clearly taught him, that these were personal ideas, and that in reality, we just didn’t know why the Lord had chosen to with hold the priesthood.

    We discussed that as far as we knew, he would have the priesthood at some point, but we did not have any reference for when that might be. So at least for us, the millennium time line was not in our mind. We did discuss all the other theories associated with the ban, and told him that although we could not prove they were right or wrong, we encouraged him to pray about the ban itself and he did and he felt fine about it.

    Interestingly, the bishop of the ward, blocked his baptism. He stated to us “what will you do when he gets one my Laurels pregnant?” Being a fairly shallow thinker, than as now, I replied I would do the same thing I would do if one of his priests got a Laurel pregnant. Nothing, not my job. Well that didn’t soften his heart.

    We went and talked to the bishop of the other ward we were assigned to, and he said we should call our mission president, Oscar McConkie. We did and I still remember his hearty laugh when we explained the situation to him. The laugh wasn’t directed at our investigator, but at the bishop, and it was kind of like, “when will these bishops grow up?”

    He said he would send a letter to the bishop and straighten everything out. He sent us a copy of the letter, which explained that he (Oscar McConkie) held the keys of deciding who qualified for convert baptisms and he had delegated those keys to the ward mission leaders, not the bishops, and that the keys had to be used based on principles of righteousness. He stated that the WML was required to conduct an interview, as described in the handbook and make an inspired decision.

    The bishop stepped back and the interview went forward and Micheal Lipscomb was baptized.

    So I would say from my perspective, that the millennium time line was one of the lesser theories associated with the ban, and was, like the other more well known theories, understood to be a personal opinion, not Church doctrine.

    And to make this post on point, so it isn’t a total thread jack, I was helping a fellow ward member move, as part of a group from the EQ of our student ward, and apparently some other people helping with the move had heard it on the radio. And yes I was quite surprised.

    I reacted by calling my former mission president and pumping him for information. His law firm handles the Church’s legal work and he was meeting with the first presidency weekly at that point in his professional capacity and serving as a regional representative for his Church calling.

    That telephone call was the first of many discussions about the revelation. He told me what his brother Bruce said happened. I have continued to discuss this subject with him over the years, the most recent being last august when we were down in Salt Lake taking a daughter to the MTC. We went to dinner with Oscar and his wife Judith and I brought the subject up again, because I wanted these 2 daughters, one going on her mission and her youngest sister to both hear the story again from the brother of somebody who was there when the revelation was received.

    My youngest daughter has since written a letter, stating that the spirit touched her so strongly during this discussion, and that Oscar’s words were so powerfully burned into her heart, that she finally gained her own testimony of the Church. And yes I love my mission president all the more as a result.

    The Church has changed since the lifting of the ban, because many bigots are no longer able to hide behind the ban.

  87. John Mansfield says:

    Little coincidence I happenned to just come across: Intel introduced the 8086 on June 8, 1978. There must be some connection …

  88. I had just received my mission call to Houston TX. A co-worker said something to the effect of — “looks like you can go and baptize those blacks down there.”

    Turns out thats exactly what I was able to do. It was great timing and I had some great experiences.

  89. Re #82: The idea was often derived from Brigham Young’s various statements:

    JD 2:142-143: “When all the other children of Adam have had the privilege of receiving the Priesthood, and of coming into the kingdom of God, and of being redeemed from the four quarters of the earth, and have received their resurrection from the dead, then it will be time enough to remove the curse from Cain and his posterity.”

    JD 7:290-291: “How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? That curse will remain upon them, and they never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof. Until the last ones of the residue of Adam’s children are brought up to that favourable position, the children of Cain cannot receive the first ordinances of the Priesthood. They were the first that were cursed, and they will be the last from whom the curse will be removed. When the residue of the family of Adam come up and receive their blessings, then the curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will receive blessings in like proportion.”

    JD 11:272: “[W]hen all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the Holy Priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.”

    In The Way to Perfection (1931) (p. 101), Joseph Fielding Smith, speaking of Cain, wrote: “A curse was placed upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures.” JFS quoted JD 2:142-143 in explaining when the curse would be removed (p. 106).

    The 1949 First Presidency Statement quoted from JD 11:272.

  90. Hunter says:

    A big thanks Justin, and CW, for your help on the millenium question. I appreciate it!

  91. I was born in early 1978, so I can’t answer the first two questions meaningfully. However, I can say a little about subsequent blessings for the corner of the vineyard where I live now: Oakland, CA.

    One of the most faithful members of our branch, currently serving as the secretary in the EQ, is a black man who was baptized a couple of years ago. He sets an example for all of us in dependability, regular temple attendance, eagerness to help everyone he can, and even just plain friendliness. If we didn’t have him among us, we would be much the poorer for it.

  92. Mark B (81) – I’m sorry if I irritated you.

    I was simply recounting what I observed that day. You might be surprised to find I’m a *huge* fan of public transportation (I didn’t ride the subway that day in said distant city; other circumstances dictated I take my rental car because of other stops I had to make later).

    I observed about a little over 100 people in Church that day. About 40% drove. About 60% took the subway (observed strictly from the direction people headed; the street parking and barbed-wire-enclosed parking lot were south of the chapel, and the subway stop was northwest. It wasn’t a stretch to make a qualitative judgment about who was driving and who was riding.

    It was actually one of more spiritually-edifying meetings I’ve been to in awhile. I’m sorry if the reality of the demographics and transportation habits of those Saints is an irritant to you.

  93. gillsyk says:

    I was at my desk at my Silicon Valley job. We worked in a secure facility and didn’t routinely place or get many phone calls. But my eventual husband called to tell me what he had just learned, and how: our friend had come screaming around the corner in her Suburban, two wheels off the ground, her head out the window, shouting to him, “They got the Priesthood! They got the Priesthood!” That’s my enduring image for the enormous joy and relief we felt.

    Later Bruce McConkie made a strong statement repudiating things that had been said in the past. He said to forget whatever he or others had said, because they spoke without the light and knowledge that had now come into the world. My private (youthful) reaction to this was that some of us had already had that light, for a long time. Many, many people were willing to stick with the Church because of their faith in the Lord; but it was a wonderful day to have congruence between what we believed in our hearts and what the doctrine of the Church finally taught.

  94. I was at work. I received a telephone call from my sister in Utah telling me the news. I was stunned and thrilled. Very soon I was able to meet up with my mother and father and in the privacy of our car we talked and shed many tears together over what we considered to be wonderful news and a special moment in the history of the earth.
    Soon after I received my mission call to Brazil. Arriving at the MTC I learned that my companion there was the first Black sister to receive a mission call after the Proclamation. I was blessed to stand with her (still at the MTC)and raise our hands in a sustaining vote for this revelation to be accepted by the church.
    In Brazil I served with Blacks, taught and converted Blacks and felt the Lords love for them. I was in a branch where a sister bore testimony to the joyous delay of her wedding so her fiance could serve a mission, now that he was able to hold the Priesthood.
    I currently live in a diverse ward where we have several Black families. I teach Primary and have 3 Black children in my class (out of a total of 13).
    I give thanks for Spencer W. Kimball, his great faith, and his desire to call down this revelation from heaven!

  95. CatherineWO says:

    We were on our way from Oregon to Salt Lake for a family reunion and had just taken the cut-off to go south from Burley, Idaho (I could find the spot on the road today) when we turned on the radio to KSL. As we heard the announcement, my husband and I both began to cry. We were just overwhelmed with joy. As we drove into my parents’ driveway a short time later, my mother came running out of the house saying, “Did you hear? Did you hear?” It was truly a day of rejoicing.

  96. sister blah 2 says:

    As someone who was too young to have experienced this firsthand, just wanted to say that I’ve immensely enjoyed reading all these responses.

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