The Non-verbal 1978 Revelation

By: Mormon Heretic
October 15, 2012

Pres Spencer W. Kimball

The past General Conference marks the 34th anniversary of the ratification of Official Declaration 2, removing any restrictions on priesthood with regards to race.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been reading the Lengthen Your Stride: Working Draft.  Chapter 22 provides more information than is available in Lengthen Your Stride by Edward Kimball.  Many have wondered why there has been no written revelation of the 1978 revelation allowed men  of all races to hold the priesthood, and all races to participate in temple ordinances.  The best answer to this question was in fact that it was not a verbal revelation.  Edward Kimball describes the circumstances surrounding the revelation.  The information in blue comes from the longer “Working Draft” version.  From page 344 of the longer version (Chapter 22),

As a follower Spencer had proved loyal and conservative. He did not come to leadership intending to be a reformer, but he was not afraid of change.  His only desire was to push the work of the Church forward.  If doing so required changes, he stood prepared to make them.

President Kimball felt that his predecessors had sought the Lord’s will concerning the priesthood policy, and for whatever reason “the time had not yet come.”4 But Spencer had to ask anew.  He wanted urgently “to find out firsthand what the Lord thought about it.”  It was not enough to just wait until the Lord saw fit to take the initiative: the scripture admonished him to ask and to knock if he wanted to know for himself. He prayed, trying not to prejudge the answer:  Should we maintain the long-standing policy or has the time come for the change?  He recieved no immediate answer to his prayers.5

In May 1975, President Kimball referred to his counselors various statements by early Church leaders about Blacks and the priesthood and asked for their reactions.6 Wary of ways in which the question had been divisive during the McKay administration, he asked the apostles to join him as colleagues in extended study and supplication.7 Francis M. Gibbons, secretary to the First Presidency, observed special focus on the issue in the year before the revelation.8 Ten years after the revelation, Dallin H. Oaks, president of BYU in 1978, recalled the time of inquiry:  “[President Kimball] asked me what I thought were the reasons.  He talked to dozens of people, maybe hundreds of people…about why, why do we have this.”9

Years earlier, talking about revelation in general, Spencer had written in a letter to his son,

Revelations will probably never come unless they are desired.  I think few people receive revelations while lounging on the couch or while playing cards or while relaxing.  I believe most revelations would come when a man is on his tip toes, reaching as high as he can for something which he knows he needs, and then there bursts upon him the answer to his problems.10

In June 1977, Spencer invited at least three General Authorities to give him memos on the implications of the subject.11 Elder McConkie wrote a long memorandum concluding that there was no scriptural barrier to a change in policy that would give priesthood to Black men.12 Considering Elder McConkie’s extremely traditional approach to the topic during the Lee administration, this conclusion explains why, according to Elder Packer, “President Kimball spoke in public of his gratitude to Elder McConkie for some special support he received in the days leading up to the revelation.”13 Although the minutes of quorum meetings are not available and participants have not commented in detail, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve discussed the issue at length, and over a period of months.14

James Faust

During the months leading up to the June 1978, President Kimball spoke with the Twelve repeatedly about the question, asking them to speak freely.17 Spencer invited associates who had not expressed themselves in the group setting to talk with him in private.18 He seemed so intent on solving the problems that others worried about him.  A neighbor of the Kimballs, Richard Vernon, had noticed that Spencer seemed somewhat withdrawn.  Normally relaxed and comfortable with friends in his ward, Spencer responded to one inquiry that he was not feeling well and changed the topic.  Many in the ward had noticed the difference and felt concerned.  Many also noticed that Camilla was anxious and worried about Spencer.

Boyd K. Packer

Elder Packer, concerned at President Kimball’s inability to let the matter rest, said, “Why don’t you forget this?”  Then Elder Packer answer his own question, “Because you can’t.  The Lord won’t let you.”19
Spencer later described:

Day after day, and especially on Saturdays and Sundays when there were no organizations [sessions] in the temple, I went there when I could be alone.

I was very humble…I was searching for this…I wanted to be sure…

I had a great deal to fight…myself, largely, because I had grown up with this thought that Negroes should not have the priesthood and I was prepared to go all the rest of my life until my death and fight for it and defend it as it was.20

On returning from the airport in February 1978 after one of his trips, Spencer asked the driver to let him off at the temple and sent Camilla home alone.  “I want to go to the temple for a while,” he said, “I’ll get a way home.”21 Some days he went more than once, often alone.22 Sometimes he changed into temple clothing, he always took off his shoes.  He obtained a key that gave him access to the temple night or day without having to involve anyone else. Few knew, except the security men who watched over him.  One of them mentioned it to President Kimball’s neighbor, who told Camilla.  So she knew that much, but she had no idea what problem so occupied Spencer.  She worried that one of the Brethren might be involved in serious transgression and though of the devastating excommunication of Richard R. Lyman thirty-five years earlier. Spencer gently suggested to the security supervisor that his men should be careful about what they disclosed, even to his wife.23

Camilla called Arthur Haycock to ask what was making Spencer so distressed and concerned.  The only answer Arthur felt free to give was that something was troubling the President but everything would be all right.24

On March 9, 1978, as the First Presidency and Twelve met in the temple, the Apostles unanimously expressed their feeling that if the policy were to change, any change must be based on revelation received and announced by the prophet. President Kimball then urged a concerted effort from all of them to learn the will of the Lord.  He suggested they engage in concerted individual fasting and prayer.25

Over time, through many days in the temple and through the sleepless hours of the night, praying and turning over in his mind all the consequences, perplexities, and criticisms that a decision to extend priesthood would involve, Spencer gradually found “All those complications and concerns dwindling in significance.”  They did not disappear but seemed to decline in importance.  In spite of his preconceptions and his allegiance to the past, a swelling certainty grew that a change was what the Lord wanted.26 “There grew slowly a deep, abiding impression to go forward with the change.”27

The answer had become clear in Spencer’s mind as early as late March, but he felt unity within the leadership was important and he continued to discuss the matter with others.  He sensed resistance from some, which he fully understood.  He did not push, lobby, pressure, or use his office to seek compliance. Instead, he increased his visits to the temple, imploring the Lord to make his will known, not only to him but also to the Twelve, to these good men who all their lives had quoted other presidents of the Church that it was not yet time.  In a sense the past prophets of the Church stood arrayed against this decision.  The wisdom of the dead often seems loftier than the word of an imperfect living spokesman.  Spencer wanted more than anything to have his fellow servants share with him a witness of the Lord’s will. Camilla noted that in their prayers together, where he had always asked for “inspiration” or “guidance”, he began to plead for “revelation.”  She also noticed that he read the scriptures even more intently than usual during that spring.28

On March 23, Spencer reported to his counselors that he had spent much of the night in reflection and his impression then was to lift the restriction on blacks.  His counselors said they were prepared to sustain him if that were his decision.  They went on to discuss the impact of such a change in policy on the members and decided there was no need for prompt action; they would discuss it again with the Twelve before a final decision.29

Francis Gibbons, secretary to the First Presidency, had the impression that President Kimball had already come to know God’s will and was now struggling with how to resolve the matter in a way that the entire leadership would stand behind.30

On April 20, President Kimball asked the Twelve to join the Presidency in praying that God would give them an answer.  Thereafter he talked with the Twelve individually and continued to spend many hours alone in prayer and meditation in the Holy of Holies, often after hours when the temple was still.31 He described the burden of his prayers in an extemporaneous talk to the missionaries in South AFrica several months later:

I remember very vividly the day after day that I walked over to the temple and ascended up to the fourth floor where we have our solemn assemblies, where we have our meetings of the Twelve and the Presidency.  And after everybody had gone out of the temple, I knelt and prayed.  And 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 to put them into place.  Day after day I went and with great solemnity and seriousness, alone in the upper rooms of the Temple, and there I offered my soul and offered our efforts to go forward with the program32 and we wanted to do what he wanted.  As we talked about it to him, we said, “Lord, we want only what is right.  We’re not making any plans to be spectacularly moving.  We want only the thing that thou dost want and we want it when you want it and not until.”33

[page 348]

LeGrand Richards

At the end of a joint meeting of the Presidency and Twelve on May 4, when the priesthood policy was discussed, LeGrand Richards asked permission to make a statement.  He then reported,

Wilford Woodruff

I saw during the meeting a man seated in a chair above the organ, bearded and dressed in white, having the appearance of Wilford Woodruff….I am not a visionary man….This was not imagination….It might be that I was privileged to see him because I am the only one here who had seen President Woodruff in person.36

Confirmation of the Revelation

On Thursday, June 1, [1978] Spencer left home early, as usual, so engrossed that he left his briefcase behind and had to send back for it. His journal for the day records, with striking blandness:

After meeting with my counselors for an hour this morning from eight until nine o’clock, we went over to the temple and met with all of the General Authorities in the monthly meeting we hold together [on the first Thursday].

Returned to the office for a few minutes and then went over to Temple Square for the dedication services of the new Visitors Center South, which was scheduled to commence at 3:00 P.M.

The services lasted for about an hour, after which we returned to the office where I worked at my desk until six o’clock.

Delbert Stapley

The day proved rather more significant that this entry suggests.  On this first Thursday of the month, the First Presidency, Twelve, and Seventies met in their regularly scheduled monthly temple meeting at 9:00 A.M., fasting.  There they bore testimony, partook of the sacrament, and participated in a prayer circle.45 The meeting lasted the usual three and a half hours and was not notably different from other such meetings until the conclusion, when President Kimball asked the Twelve to remain.  Two had already left the room to change from their temple clothing in preparation for the regular business meeting of the First Presidency and the Twelve which normally followed.  Someone called them back.  Elder Delbert L. Stapley lay ill in the hospital and Elder Mark E. Petersen was in South America on assignment.  Ten of the Twelve were present.

Mark E. Petersen

As was later recalled, President Kimball said,

Brethren, I have cancelled lunch for today.  Would you be willing to remain in the temple with us?  I would like you to continue to fast with me.  I have been going to the temple almost daily for many weeks now, sometimes for hours, entreating the Lord for a clear answer.  I have not been determined in advance what the answer should be.  And I will be satisfied with a simple Yes or No, but I want to know.  Whatever the Lord’s decision is, I will defend it to the limits of my strength, even to death.46

He outlined to them the direction his thoughts had carried him–the fading of his reluctance, the disappearance of objections, the growing assurance he had received, the tentative decision he had reached, and his desire for a clear answer.  Once more he asked the Twelve to speak, without concern for seniority.  “Do you have anything to say?”  Elder McConkie spoke in favor of change, nothing there was no scriptural impediment.  President Tanner asked searching questions as Elder McConkie spoke.  Then Elder Packer spoke at length, explaining his view that every worthy man should be allowed to hold the priesthood.  He quoted scriptures (D&C 124:49; 56:4-5; 58:32) in support of change.47 Eight of the ten volunteered their views, all favorable.  President Kimball called on the other two, and they also spoke in favor. Discussion continued for two hours.48 Elder Packer said, a few weeks later, “One objection would have deterred him, would have made him put if off, so careful was he…that it had to be right.”49 The decision process bonded them in unity.  They then sought divine confirmation.

President Kimball asked, “Do you mind if I lead you in prayer?”  There were things he wanted to say to the Lord.  He had reached a decision after great struggle, and he wanted the Lord’s confirmation, if it would come.  They surrounded the altar in a prayer circle. President Kimball told the Lord at length that if extending the priesthood was not right, if the Lord did not want this change to come in the Church, he would fight the world’s opposition.50 Elder McConkie later recounted, “The Lord took over and President Kimball was inspired in his prayer, asking the right questions, and he asked fora  manifestation.”51

During that prayer, those present felt something powerful, uniting, ineffible.  Those who tried to describe it struggled to find words.  Elder McConkie said:

Bruce R. McConkie

[It was as though another day of Pentecost came.]  On the day of Pentecost in the Old World it is recorded that cloven tongues of fire rested upon the people.  They were trying to put into words what is impossible to express directly. There are no words to describe the sensation, but simultaneously the Twelve and the three members of the First Presidency had the Holy Ghost descent upon them and they knew that God had manifested his well….I had had some remarkable spiritual experiences before, particularly in connection with my call as an apostle, but nothing of this magnitude.

All the brethren at once knew and felt in their souls what the answer to the importuning petition of President Kimball was…Some of the Brethren were weeping.  All were sober and somewhat overcome.  When President Kimball stood up, several of the Brethren, in turn, threw their arms around him.52

Elder L. Tom Perry recalled: “While he was praying we had a marvelous experience.  We had just a unity of feeling.  The nearest I can describe it is that it was much like what has been recounted as happening at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple.  I felt something like the rushing of wind.  There was a feeling that come over the whole group.  When President Kimball got up he was visibly relieved and overjoyed.”53

Gordon B. Hinckley

Elder Hinckley said soon afterward that the experience defied description.  “It was marvelous, very personal, bringing with it great unity and strong conviction that this change was a revelation from God.54 Ten years later he said:

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….  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….

There was not the sound “as of a rushing might wind,” there were not “cloven tongues of fire” as there had been on the Day of Pentecost….

…But the voice of the Spirit whispered with 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, “…behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind.”

…Not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that.55

Elder David B. Haight recalled, “The Spirit touched each of our hearts with the same message in the same way. Each was witness to a

Marvin J. Ashton

David Haight

transcendent heavenly event.”56 He spoke of the event again eighteen years later:  “I was there.  I was there with the outpouring of the Spirit in that rooms 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 heavenly spiritual experience.”57 Elder Marvin J. Ashton called it “the most intense spiritual impression I’ve ever felt.”58 Elder Packer said that during the prayer all present became aware what the decision must be.59

Ezra Taft Benson

Elder Benson recorded in his journal:  “Following the prayer, we experienced the sweetest spirit of unity and conviction that I have ever experienced…. Our bosoms burned with the righteousness of the decision we had made.”60  Each who felt this powerful spiritual experience confirming the decision proposed by President Kimball perceived it as a revelation.

Howard W. Hunter

Elder Hunter said, “Following the prayer…comments were made about the feeling shared by all, that seldom, if ever, had there been greater unanimity in the council.”62

L. Tom Perry

L. Tom Perry said, “I don’t think we’ve had a president more willing to entreat the Lord or more receptive since the Prophet Joseph. We knew that he had received the will of the Lord.”63

As the prophet arose from his knees, he first encountered Elder Haight, the newest apostle and they embraced. Elder Haight could feel President Kimball’s heart pounding and could feel his intense emotion. The president continued around the circle, embracing each apostle in turn.64 Others spontaneously embraced, also.

Spencer felt that the reaction evidence his brethren’s acceptance of the policy change and, at the same time, their acceptance of him.  Elder Perry said,

It was just as though a great burden had been lifted.  He was almost speechless.  It was almost impossible for him to contain his joy.  Nothing was said or had to be said.  We sensed what the answer was, the decision was made. There was a great feeling of unity among us and relief that it was over.  As I have talked with other members of the Twelve since then, they felt the same as I did.  I don’t think the Twelve will ever be the same again. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.65

President Kimball also later said, “I felt an overwhelming spirit there, a rushing flood of unity such as we had never had before.”  And he knew that the fully sufficient answer had come.66

Emotion overflowed as the group lingered.  When someone reminded President Kimball of the earlier appearance of Wilford Woodruff to LeGrand Richards in the room, Spencer said he thought it natural:  “President Woodruff would have been very much interested, because he went through something of the same sort of experience” with the Manifesto.67 The Brethren expressed their elation at the events, pleasing President Kimball by the depth of their feeling.  They felt greatly relieved that the decision was made and pleased with the outcome.  They had yearned for this change but had needed the confirmation of the Spirit to reassure them. After their experience–so sacred that some would not discuss it and the thought of it capable of bringing tears–every man stood resolute in support of the action.

Because it was a revelation of such tremendous significance and import; one that would reverse the whole direction of the Church, procedurally and administratively; one that would affect the living and the dead; one that would affect the total relationship that we have with the world.  The Lord wanted independent witnesses who could bear record that the thing had happened.66

That ends chapter 22.  Many people note that Official Declaration 2 is simply a press release, and describes none of these experiences.  I wonder why the leaders have found no need to canonize this information, but since it was a non-verbal revelation, perhaps that is part of the reason.  I know that Elder McConkie gets a lot of flak for what he wrote in Mormon Doctrine concerning blacks, but it is interesting to me that it was he who said there was no “scriptural impediment” to blacks obtaining the priesthood.  What are your thoughts?

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

27 Responses to The Non-verbal 1978 Revelation

  1. jared on October 15, 2012 at 6:38 AM

    i cried when i read it….

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  2. Usually a lurker on October 15, 2012 at 8:02 AM

    Thank you for posting this. I had never read this information before. It is very moving.

    During this past year, I have finally decided my lifelong questioning, doubt, and lack of spiritual manifestation could be put to rest in concluding that I just don’t believe the church is the one true church (that there is no one true church). Even believing that, though, I have never doubted that the church is GOOD, and has much truth. I have always had the conviction that the men leading the church are good men, and with good intentions. I feel it strongly when I watch General Conference and when I read their words, even when I disagree with the message. Their example usually makes me want to be a better person, which is why I am still in the church.

    But this description of Spencer Kimball searching for the truth is beyond even what I expected. What humility and sacrifice.

    I don’t really want to go back to thinking, maybe the church really is true? Maybe I just haven’t tried hard enough? Maybe I’m missing out? It’s so much easier to have put it to rest.

    But this description of inspiration and revelation to the prophet and to the twelve–it moves me in that direction. Clearly, all they want is to find out the Lord’s will and follow that inspiration. What a great example.

    Sorry, this is too personal, but I wanted to share how it affected me. It’s a very inspirational account of the effort of a good man to find out the will of the Lord.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 13

  3. Mormon Heretic on October 15, 2012 at 8:09 AM

    I wish it was more common knowledge about the visitation of President Woodruff.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  4. Paul on October 15, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    Thanks for sharing this. For me the news of the revelation was one of those “Do you remember where you were when you heard…” experiences.

    I wept as I read these chapters in Lengthen Your Stride (I had received the book as a gift and sat down on the dining room floor and turned straight to these chapters).

    My parents were living in Nigeria at the time of the revelation (I was on a mission in Germany) and they were able to see the first missionaries come to West Africa and the beginnings of a church organization there.

    Thanks for this look inside the process of the revelation.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  5. Martin G. on October 15, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    To be honest, reading these details makes me even more disillusioned and sad about the ban and the subsequent lifting of it.

    It is very disheartening to me that these men needed to labor so much to come to what I find to be a very logical and loving conclusion; no race should be excluded from God’s favor. The very fact that it required such enormous mental and spiritual energy reinforces my feelings that these men have no greater connection to God than I, which unfortunately seems to be very little.

    The sense of pride and edification that these men expressed when finally making the decision is disturbing to me. When president Benson stated, “Our bosoms burned with the righteousness of the decision we had made”, I couldn’t help but feel he missed the point. Of course it’s righteous! The leaders of God’s one true church finally stopped excluding races of God’s children! Instead reveling in your “righteousness” you could be humbled and even feel a bit shameful that it persisted as long as it did! Reading quote after quote of these men recounting the amazing spiritual experience they had together gives me the impression that they think God gave them a privileged experience. I just don’t feel that God would work that way. As the leaders of God’s one true church you miss the civil rights movement by a decade or two, and then you you get to, as Elder Haight put it, be a “witness to a transcendent heavenly event”? Just doesn’t seem right to me.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 18

  6. Howard on October 15, 2012 at 2:04 PM

    We were just discussing something similar on another thread. From this post we see: 1) Revelations will probably never come unless they are desired. 2)It took President Kimball months of work to acquire it and 3) He had to overcome the bias he was raised with in order to do it. This is why I believe agitation is often necessary to encourage the brethren or President to overcome their own biases, perhaps even requiring a course reversal, do the months of work required and receive an answer to a specific issue.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  7. Steve on October 15, 2012 at 3:17 PM

    This is such an interesting topic. Thanks for the information.

    To me this (like many other things in the Gospel and life) generates more questions than answers:

    1) Neither of the 2 main canonized post-Joseph revelations were recorded. Apparently OD #1 was verbal and OD #2 was non-verbal. Why would such monumental revelations, which so changed the direction of the Church, not be given in the same way that Joseph and earlier prophets gave such?

    2) Why was it necessary for the prophet of the Lord to get others’ opinions instead of simply approaching the Lord Himself for an answer?

    3) How does this fit with the verses in Abraham 1, telling us of a lineage which was not to have the priesthood?

    4) Are those verses not a scriptural impediment?

    5) How do these accounts compare to that given by Elder Richards (


    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  8. Paul on October 15, 2012 at 3:39 PM


    Two thoughts. First, we know from the McKay biography that Elder Kimball abstained in the vote in the 12 regarding the priesthood ban while President McKay led the church, so even if President Kimball took a long time as prophet, he’d been working on the matter much longer than that. I can’t imagine why his taking a long time to seek and understand the Lord’s will — and how to implement it — suggests anything but divine inspiration.

    Second — by the late 1970′s the “agitation” of the civil rights movement in the United States was very different than it was in the 60′s. There certainly were voices within the LDS community (some of which were listened to very carefully), and there were other global events for the church (like potential church growth in Africa and Brazil) that may also have influenced the desire to know.

    But my sense particularly from President Kimball’s biography is that this was an issue he’d considered for quite some time. The role of external agitation (and I do not like that term, whatever its genesis) is not at all clear.

    When you suggest that agitation is “necessary” it infers a substantial weakness in the leadership of the church. It is easy to see why many faithful members might be uncomfortable with such a characterization. Further it suggests that if we really want a social change in the church all we need to do is “agitate” for a few decades and the church will come around. I suspect that idea is also offensive to many faithful members.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  9. Paul on October 15, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    Sorry — rather than “infers” I should have written “implies.”

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  10. Paul on October 15, 2012 at 3:49 PM

    #7 Steve, I suspect someone else will chime in with evidence that the relationship between Cain and the Canaanites is not what your reading of Abraham 1 suggests.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  11. Howard on October 15, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    Very few people work hard to accomplish something they consciously or subconsciously oppose without some kind of outside influence. It is clear from Kimball’s comments that he didn’t have an open phone line with the Lord so a lot of work was required to accomplish a goal that opposed his understanding. The civil rights movement began in 1948 with an executive order, a lot earlier than many realize predating McKay’s Presidency by a few years. It reached a violent peak in the 60s leaving the church looking pretty unenlightened and left behind by the late 70s! Offensive or not it is hard to believe that these things had NO influence in bringing LDS leaders to their knees.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  12. Margaret Blair Young on October 15, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    Thanks, MH. Good stuff here.
    Paul, I’d like to know who your parents are. I’ve interviewed several people who were in Nigeria in the 1960s. Could you email me? I’m at BYU, English department.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  13. hawkgrrrl on October 15, 2012 at 8:22 PM

    From E. Cook’s talk: “Many who are in a spiritual drought and lack commitment have not necessarily been involved in major sins or transgressions, but they have made unwise choices. . . Some have immersed themselves in Internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and, in some cases, invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony.” I tend to agree that my first thought was why would they be laboring over something so obvious?? But hindsight makes it obvious. One thing I’ve learned as a Mormon is that believers become as attached or more to their justifications for their beliefs than to the beliefs themselves. There were so many who (like Spencer himself) believed that the ban was from God and was never going to change. Their minds were completely wrapped around that idea. Not just leaders, but members, too.

    There’s something compassionate in not wanting to force the Q12 to embrace the changes. There’s a real risk in any human system of introducing change without buy in. The system can destabilize. Mormonism, I’m coming to see, is even more resilient than most designs because change can be couched in revelation.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  14. Samuel Rogers on October 15, 2012 at 8:23 PM

    This was great. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Martin G: Without sharing the burden of the Lord’s kingdom on Earth that those men bear, I wouldn’t be so easy to judge that they missed the point.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  15. Mormon Heretic on October 15, 2012 at 8:42 PM

    I wonder why President Monson was not quoted? I believe he is the only apostle from 1978 not referenced or quoted.

    Steve, interesting questions.

    1) Neither of the 2 main canonized post-Joseph revelations were recorded. Apparently OD #1 was verbal and OD #2 was non-verbal. Why would such monumental revelations, which so changed the direction of the Church, not be given in the same way that Joseph and earlier prophets gave such?

    As I understand it, OD#1 was a vision, and it is recorded in the footnote. (IMO, those should be reversed.) The footnote reads:

    The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. If we had not stopped it, you would have had no use for … any of the men in this temple at Logan; for all ordinances would be stopped throughout the land of Zion. Confusion would reign throughout Israel, and many men would be made prisoners. This trouble would have come upon the whole Church, and we should have been compelled to stop the practice. Now, the question is, whether it should be stopped in this manner, or in the way the Lord has manifested to us, and leave our Prophets and Apostles and fathers free men, and the temples in the hands of the people, so that the dead may be redeemed. A large number has already been delivered from the prison house in the spirit world by this people, and shall the work go on or stop? This is the question I lay before the Latter-day Saints. You have to judge for yourselves. I want you to answer it for yourselves. I shall not answer it; but I say to you that that is exactly the condition we as a people would have been in had we not taken the course we have.

    … I saw exactly what would come to pass if there was not something done. I have had this spirit upon me for a long time. But I want to say this: I should have let all the temples go out of our hands; I should have gone to prison myself, and let every other man go there, had not the God of heaven commanded me to do what I did do; and when the hour came that I was commanded to do that, it was all clear to me. I went before the Lord, and I wrote what the Lord told me to write. …

    I leave this with you, for you to contemplate and consider. The Lord is at work with us. (Cache Stake Conference, Logan, Utah, Sunday, November 1, 1891. Reported in Deseret Weekly, November 14, 1891.)

    2) Why was it necessary for the prophet of the Lord to get others’ opinions instead of simply approaching the Lord Himself for an answer?

    As I have learned more about the McKay presidency, there were sharp divisions not only among the Q12, but also among the First Presidency on a range of issues, including this one. I think President Kimball sought to avoid the divisions by including the Q12 in the revelatory process. I think Kimball was “priming the pump” when asking these questions, so the Q12 would be more receptive.

    3) How does this fit with the verses in Abraham 1, telling us of a lineage which was not to have the priesthood?

    Alma Allred has written an essay Using SCriptures to Debunk the Race ban. I wrote about it a while back, but I’ll try to give the reader’s digest version.

    The Book of Abraham states that a descendant of Canaan discovered the land of Egypt and that all the Egyptians are descended from Canaan:

    Now this king of Egypt was a descendant from the loins of Ham, and was a partaker of the blood of Canaanites by birth.

    From this descent sprang all the Egyptians, and thus the blood of the Canaanites was preserved in the land. (Abraham 1:21-22)

    The problem that is immediately apparent is the fact that Abraham and Joseph each married an Egyptian woman. One response offered to counter that damaging evidence has been that the Egyptians at the time of these marriages were Semitic Hyksos who had conquered Egypt and so were not really Canaanites. This explanation contradicts Abraham 1:21-22. It also contradicts history. The Hyksos held power in Egypt for a maximum of only one hundred fifty years. If they were Egyptians during Abraham’s lifetime, it is not possible for them to still have been in power in Joseph’s day.18

    On page 43, Allred notes that Hugh Nibley said that Asenath

    “was the daughter of the high priest of Heliopolis and hence of the pure line of Ham; she was also the wife of Joseph and the mother of our own vaunted ancestor Ephraim.”20 Ephraim, son of a Canaanite mother, acquired the birthright by blessing from his grandfather Jacob. According to LDS theology, the impact of this blessing cannot be underestimated. The birthright was the right to preside in the priesthood, as will be explained later.

    Allred continues to note other discrepancies about Canaanites in the Bible, and notes that Canaanites sometimes married Israelites–the Canaanite harlot Rahab was saved in Jericho, and is an ancestor of Jesus. (Matt 1:5) Allred notes that Edomites (Canaanites) were allowed in the the congregation of Israel (Deut. 23:7-8) Moses also married an Ethiopian woman. From the Bible, Allred concludes on page 45,

    Little doubt remains that intermarriage between Canaanites and Israelites destroyed any chance for a pure, non-Canaanite race among the chosen seed. One third of the house of Judah is Canaanite with an unknown portion among the other tribes. What then can we make of the curse pronounced by Noah and of Abraham’s comments about Pharaoh’s lineage could not have the ‘right of the priesthood’? (Abr. 1:27). It may be that Mormons have simply misunderstood those passages of scripture.

    4) Are those verses not a scriptural impediment?

    No, I encourage you to read the link for more info. McConkie and others didn’t feel Abraham was an impediment.

    5) How do these accounts compare to that given by Elder Richards?

    Thank you for that link, I wasn’t aware of it. That’s a fantastic interview. The temple in Brazil certainly was a catalyst for removing the ban.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  16. Paul 2 on October 16, 2012 at 1:28 AM

    MH, this is one of my favorite posts of 2012. It is very thought provoking. I have also enjoyed the comments, especially the comment from Usually a lurker.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  17. UnderCover Brother on October 16, 2012 at 5:11 AM

    #13 hawkgrrrl:

    Sorry for the long response and I’m not trying to thread jack, but I’m trying to understand why you included Elder Cook’s talk. When he stated,

    “…Some have immersed themselves in Internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and, in some cases, invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony.”

    are you implying that the same process can be used for the Thomas B. Marsh ‘milk strippings’ story (quoted by President Hinckley when we all know it didn’t happen), the Brigham Young/Sidney Rigdon story (when BY was ‘transfigured with Joseph’s face/voice’ – again, didn’t happen) or the destruction of the printing press prior to brother Joseph’s martyrdom due to the ‘lies’ printed – only to find out that what was printed was in fact true?

    In a separate thread but very much linked to this, I asked whether there are other things the Lord wishes to reveal but may be stifled due to ‘internal dissent’ (of the Brethren). It is talks like this today that cause concern. To me, I’m still not sure some of the Brethren get it yet.

    As we know in the spring of 1973 Dialog published Lester Bush’s work, “Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview”. We also know that President Kimball used the same article as part of trying to understand the historical context of the ban and knowing God’s will on this matter. However 18 months later in the October 1974 General Conference and published in the November 1974 Ensign, Elder Bruce R. McConkie said,

    “Am I valiant if I am deeply concerned about the Church’s stand on who can or who cannot receive the priesthood and think it is time for a new revelation on this doctrine?…
    “Am I valiant if I engage in gambling, play cards, go to pornographic movies, shop on Sunday …?”

    According to Elder McConkie, being deeply concerned about the Church’s stand on who can or who cannot receive the priesthood was equated with engaging in gambling and watching pornographic movies. One can only imagine President Kimball’s thoughts and feelings after listening to those words from a fellow Apostle. One can only imagine Brother Bush’s thoughts and feelings after watching/listening to this talk from an Apostle of the Lord. And who drew the incorrect conclusion – Elder McConkie who in 1973, according to Brother Bush, ‘… slammed the Dialogue with my essay down on his desk, and pronounced it “CRAP!” End of discussion.’?

    I understand that what happened, happened. My concern is that it could be still happening today and the Lord’s will is being stifled. Elder Cook’s talk did not help alleviate that concern.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  18. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 17, 2012 at 3:23 AM

    As to Thomas B Marsh, it disrespects the man greatly to ignore his statements.

    He did not take the position that the milk strippings story was false, but instead confirmed Brigham Young’s criticisms of him.

    I know, it is a popular self righteous position to take, but it also gravely disrespects Marsh’s own testimony.

    Thought I should note that.

    I believe Thomas is entitled to more respect than the meme gives him.

    Stephen R. Marsh

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  19. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 17, 2012 at 3:36 AM

    My reprise on Marsh noted, I enjoyed the OP.

    I think it is easy to look at something that is deeply devisive and conclude that the “other” side is wrong and that movement should come quickly and without regard for their weaknesses or feelings.

    And, of course, to be offended if anyone suggests we are wrong and should change instead or that we should bear one another’s burdens.

    By building consensus and by uniting the leadership in revelation President Kimball was able to create a much stronger consensus and support for what he did.

    I think we can all stand to learn a great deal from the account as well as the import of how much of a barrier pride of place can be for many.

    Myself, I would rather not have the little good I have done ignored because I had a different set of sins and weaknesses than my critics.

    All have sinned and come short of the glory of Christ. I as much as anyone. If it is just a matter of pointing out and being offended that someone needs the atonement in their life, then no one will suffice.

    That is not the lesson I take from this story, but rather how a leader should lead if he or she wants the windows of heaven to open.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  20. UnderCover Brother on October 17, 2012 at 7:45 AM

    #18 Stephen:

    You wrote: ‘As to Thomas B Marsh, it disrespects the man greatly to ignore his statements. He did not take the position that the milk strippings story was false…’

    Maybe you misunderstand what I wrote or I didn’t explain myself well enough.I am not disrespecting Brother Marsh. I am agreeing with you wholeheartedly. I am saying that people have used the ‘milk strippings’ story to prove that, ‘Small Acts Lead to Great Consequences’ (talk given by President Hinckley in 1984). In the talk President Hinckley said,

    ‘What a very small and trivial thing—a little cream over which two women quarreled. But it led to, or at least was a factor in, Governor Boggs’ cruel exterminating order which drove the Saints from the state of Missouri, with all of the terrible suffering and consequent death that followed. The man who should have settled this little quarrel, but who, rather, pursued it, troubling the officers of the Church, right up to the Presidency, literally went through hell for it. He lost his standing in the Church. He lost his testimony of the gospel.’

    The problem I have is that the ‘milk strippings’ story didn’t happened. Although President Hinckley (quoting Brother George A. Smith) said in his talk, ‘Marsh, not being satisfied, took an appeal to the First Presidency of the Church, and Joseph and his counselors had to sit upon the case, and they approved the decision of the High Council….’, there’s no mention of it in the High Council minutes. But that was how it was written by Brother Smith, repeated by President Hinckley and still used in lessons today as an example of the road to apostasy.

    This brings me back to Elder Cook’s talk when he said,

    “Some have immersed themselves in … materials that magnify, exaggerate, and, in some cases, invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony.”

    I believe that the ‘milk strippings’ story magnified, exaggerated and invented shortcomings of Brother Marsh as an early Church leader, which then drew an incorrect conclusion.

    Like you, I believe that Thomas was and is entitled to far more respect.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  21. UnderCover Brother on October 17, 2012 at 9:56 AM

    #19 Stephen:

    You wrote: ‘By building consensus and by uniting the leadership in revelation President Kimball was able to create a much stronger consensus and support for what he did.’

    It could also be said that President Kimball used some of his political skills to help gain consensus and support for the revelation. As MH stated, Elders Stapley and Petersen were not there for the revelation and we have all read what they had to say on Blacks and the Priesthood and the Civil Rights Bill (Elder Stapely called the Civil Rights Bill, ‘… vicious legislation’).

    Note also that consensus and unity was gained for the revelation only; not for dismantling the structural underpinnings and practices that kept the Temple/Priesthood ban in place. To me, there’s still work to do.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  22. Roger on October 17, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    A question and comments–

    The question is for Undercover Brother—While I have no problem believing that it happened, is there a citation for the account you give to the following effect?–

    “Elder McConkie who in 1973, according to Brother Bush, ‘… slammed the Dialogue with my essay down on his desk, and pronounced it “CRAP!” End of discussion.’”

    (I doubt it is in the Ensign archives)

    I suppose that McKay knew what needed to be done but as a young apostle had been seared by the experience of seeing Elders Cowley and Taylor dropped from the quorum due to a lack of consensus on the suspension/abandonment of polygamy.

    I suppose he could have said, “Thus saith the Lord and tested Lee, Benson, Peterson and Stapely as to whether they would follow the prophet, but he was not a man given to confrontation.

    One really has to wonder how people like William Lloyd Garrison, Benjamin Frnaklin and other political leaders with their imprefect visioncould see that racial division and oppression were evil and yet the Lord’s living oracles could not.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  23. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 17, 2012 at 9:59 PM

    There is indeed work to be done.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  24. UnderCover Brother on October 18, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    #22 Roger:

    I should have provided the reference. It was in Lester Bush’s article: ‘Writing “Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview” (1973): Context and Reflections, 1998’ in Journal of Mormon History Vol. 25, No. 1, 1999 – page 267.

    Not sure how to hyperlink stuff here, but I can e-mail it to you if you would like to read it. Let me know.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  25. MH on October 18, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    Utah State University has an archive of old JMH articles. You can find the entire issue at

    Because the PDF is numbered slightly different (the cover is page 1, and the table of contents are numbered as well), when you open the PDF document, go to page 271. It will take you to page 267 as Under Cover Brother referenced.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  26. Roger on October 18, 2012 at 4:46 PM

    Esteemed brethern– (both the undercover and heretical varieties)

    I was able to find the files and have been reading the entire JMH issue from 1999. Thank you very much for pointing me in that direction.

    As Dr. Bush wrote—”the evidence impels us toward certain conclusions . . . “

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  27. Lily on January 25, 2013 at 10:21 PM

    Thank you so much for this marvelous post. I had not had the opportunity to read/hear it before and it is very thorough. Most of all, I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity it gave me of receiving a sweet testimony from the Lord of the truthfulness of the revelation received by the General Authorities at that time.We are so blessed to know the truth for ourselves.I am very grateful for those the Lord calls to lead this amazing church.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0


%d bloggers like this: