Monday, June 1, 2015

Understanding Revelation

Today marks 37 years since the announcement on priesthood; which extended the privilege of ordination to the priesthood for men and african descent and temple blessings to all people of african descent. As an African-American convert (I really wish the term African-American were abolished), this is a day I hold particularly sacred. Without this revelation, I could not have received my temple endowment, served as a full-time missionary, or currently serve as an ordinance worker in the Salt Lake Temple; the temple where this revelation was received. If no one else can appreciate this revelation, I can.

This revelation can teach all (whether black or white) a lesson about the nature of revelation. A little background will be helpful. Before this revelation came to him, President Spencer W. Kimball went to the holy of holies in prayer to the Lord for months before he got an answer. Think of that; President Kimball had the burdens of the entire church on his shoulders, yet sought the Lord diligently on this one question. He did not tire, he was diligent until an answer was obtained. He said  "Revelations will probably never come unless they are desired. I think few people receive revelations while lounging on a couch.... 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." (Lengthen Your Stride, pg. 216)

This is the point I wanted to make: Revelations do not come if there is only mild interest. They come to those who diligently seek them. And also, the person must be willing to take whatever answer in given. If both of these requirements are not met, a revelation will not come. Perhaps another example would be helpful. Take the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove. His question was a common one "Which church is true?" Millions had asked before, millions are still asking that question. It was not enough to merely search the scriptures, which he admits in his biography was not worthwhile when all churches believed in the Bible. It was not enough to ask preachers and ministers; they would only tell you that there denomination is correct. There was only one course the young Joseph could take: Ask God himself and wait for an answer. Because he was willing to do what was necessary and open to any answer, revelation and enlightenment came.

Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that this revelation came in 1978 and not before. Brigham Young installed the practice of withholding the priesthood and temple blessings from blacks without a revelation, so of course he could not receive a revelation to change it. I am sure the Lord has chastised him even more sharply than he did the Brother of Jared for this gross immorality that he caused to come upon his fellow human beings. The other presidents of the Church up until the time of President David O. McKay had other pressing matters to attend to; this issue understandably had to wait. The revelation could have come in the administration of David O. McKay, but in order for that to happen all of the First Presidency and all of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles would have to be in total agreement with it. This was not possible as Harold B. Lee and Mark E. Petersen would have none of it. Harold B. Lee daughter once said to a friend "My daddy said that as long as he's alive, they'll never have the priesthood." (David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, pg.64) Mark E. Petersen was not present in the temple when the revelation came 37 years ago although he was a member of the twelve at the time, and I believe it was for good reason. He once said that blacks desired to destroy the white race through interracial marriage, so I am quite confident he would not be particularly anxious to give the priesthood to blacks. He did sign off on it once President Kimball told him of the decision, but as a decision had already been made it was 13 to 1 (Elder Delbert L. Stapley was also not there, he was in the hospital). A revelation could not come during the tenure of President Joseph Fielding Smith could not enact a change for the same reason, and the Lord had to take the life of President Lee for a change to come. As the angel said to Nephi "It is better that one man should perish than a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief." (1 Nephi 4:13) Perhaps the same could be said of the black mans spiritual welfare in comparison to Bro. Lee's life.

I hope that we can learn from the blueprint that the prophets have left for us in receiving revelation. First, be willing to diligently seek an answer. Second, be willing to accept any answer, especially if the one you do not want is the correct answer. Third, pray and don't faint. If such is the way of the prophets, should it not be the way for you also?

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