In 1907, the First Presidency codified the Church’s official policy about black African participation in both priesthood and temple declaring that, “No one known to have in his veins negro blood, (it matters not how remote a degree) can either have the Priesthood in any degree or the blessings of the Temple of God; no matter how otherwise worthy he may be.”
By contrast, in 2020 Church President Russell M. Nelson reminded all church members that, “Your standing before God is not determined by the color of your skin. Favor or disfavor with God is dependent upon your devotion to God and His commandments and not the color of your skin.”
The major catalyst shifting the Church away from that discriminatory 1907 policy and toward the marvelous inclusivity encapsulated in President Nelson’s words, was the Lord’s revelation to Church leaders in 1978. But this revelation didn’t come all of the sudden nor out of the blue; in fact, it was decades in coming and grew out of the convergence of real-world circumstances in which Church leaders found themselves and the Church.
In today’s episode of Church History Matters, we take a look at some of the relevant historical developments in the Church during the 70 year period from 1908-1978—from the decades-long season of racial hardening and exclusion, to a softening and relaxing of certain Church policies under President David O. McKay in the 1950s and 60s, to disharmony and divergence of views among the apostles in the 60s, and finally to the unexpected call of Spencer W. Kimball as Church president in 1973. So today we set the stage for next week's climactic episode all about the details of the 1978 revelation itself.
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to https://doctrineandcovenantscentral.org/church-history-matters-podcast/