Primary source material for this lesson: “Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood,” Edward L. Kimball, BYU Studies Quarterly, 47:2
1. Before June of 1978, the Church prohibited blacks from the priesthood. What did this prohibition consist of?
- Black men could not receive the priesthood or hold priesthood leadership positions. Black men and women could not serve missions or receive temple endowments, though they could be baptized for the dead and black children could be sealed to adoptive parents of other races. They could receive patriarchal blessings, serve as secretaries (but not ward clerks), teach classes, and participate in the music program. Women could be visiting teachers, but men couldn’t be home teachers.
- The prohibition wasn’t related to personal worthiness. Also, skin color wasn’t the determining factor, but perceived lineage from black Africans (e.g., Australian aborigines weren’t prohibited). If lineage was unknown, the Church erred on the side of leniency. If errors later came to light, ordained men were asked to suspend use of their priesthood.
- The prohibition was termed a “policy” rather than a doctrine, but one that couldn’t be changed without revelation.
2. Did the Church always exclude blacks from holding the priesthood? Reportedly some persons of mixed heritage received the endowment before 1907. Also, at least two African Americans were ordained during Joseph Smith’s lifetime: