“Only the comprehension of the true Fatherhood of God can bring full appreciation of the true brotherhood of men and the true sisterhood of women,” said President Russell M. Nelson at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 40th anniversary celebration of the revelation on the priesthood. “That understanding inspires us with passionate desire to build bridges of cooperation instead of walls of segregation.”
President Nelson’s remarks Friday, June 1, 2018, concluded a 90-minute event at the Conference Center on Temple Square that celebrated, through song, dance and the spoken word, the Church’s June 1978 revelation that extended the blessings of the priesthood and the temple to all of God’s children everywhere in the world. The event was titled “Be One,” a reference to Latter-day Saint scripture where Jesus says, “Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27).
Narrators told the stories of two African American Latter-day Saints of the 1800s, Jane Manning James and Elijah Abel, as well as several pioneering Latter-day Saints of the past 50 years — including Anthony Obinna of Nigeria, Joseph William Billy Johnson of Ghana, Victor Nugent of Jamaica and Helvécio Martins of Brazil. Music came from seven-time Grammy Award-winner Gladys Knight, the Saints Unified Voices, entertainer and YouTube sensation Alex Boyé, the Bonner family, the Unity Gospel Choir International and members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. In all there were hundreds of singers and dancers who participated in the jubilee.
Yvonne Baraketse, the evening’s choreographer and a Latter-day Saint since her days as a refugee in Belgium, said she hopes people come away from Friday’s event with a deeper understanding that “we all are children of God, that He loves us [and] has a plan for each one of us.” Temanuata Laussen, a member of Gladys Knight’s Saints Unified Voices Choir, expressed the same desire, as well as her gratitude to be a part of the celebration. “I can’t even say how much of a blessing it is to be a part of this,” she said. “It’s just been so neat for all of us to come together with our different cultures, our musical backgrounds, our religious backgrounds. I hope [people] leave feeling the love of our Father in Heaven, feeling the love of our prophet and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles [and] our First Presidency.”
President Dallin H. Oaks, who serves as first counselor to President Nelson, opened the celebration by recounting how he learned of the June 1978 revelation that rescinded the restriction on priesthood ordination and extended the opportunity of blessings of the temple to all worthy Latter-day Saints, male and female.
President Oaks, who was president of Brigham Young University at the time, received a phone call at home from an apostle while he and his sons were working outside with a pile of dirt. After taking the call and hearing the news, he came back outside, sat on that pile of dirt and wept as he related the revelation to his sons.
“I observed the pain and frustration experienced by those who suffered these restrictions and those who criticized them and sought for reasons. I studied the reasons then being given and could not feel confirmation of the truth of any of them,” President Oaks said. “As part of my prayerful study, I learned that, in general, the Lord rarely gives reasons for the commandments and directions He gives to His servants. I determined to be loyal to our prophetic leaders and to pray — as promised from the beginning of these restrictions — that the day would come when all would enjoy the blessings of priesthood and temple. Now, on June 8, 1978, that day had come, and I wept for joy.”
Regarding past priesthood and temple restrictions, President Oaks encouraged a forward-looking approach: “Let us all look forward in the unity of our faith and trust in the Lord’s promise that ‘he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female’ (2 Nephi 26:33).”
President Oaks said one of the most important effects of the revelation on the priesthood is its “divine call to abandon attitudes of prejudice against any group of God’s children.” He noted that racism is the most obvious of these but said many other people have been persecuted because of ethnicity, culture, nationality, education or economic circumstances.
“As servants of God who have the knowledge and responsibilities of His great plan of salvation, we should hasten to prepare our attitudes and our actions — institutionally and personally — to abandon all personal prejudices,” President Oaks said.
This is what can happen when people join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Nelson said in his concluding remarks.
“Differences in culture, language, gender, race, and nationality fade into insignificance as the faithful enter the covenant path and come unto our beloved Redeemer,” he said. “[May we] overcome any burdens of prejudice and walk uprightly with God — and with one another — in perfect peace and equity.”
Note: New videos and content will continue to be added to BeOne.lds.org, extending the opportunity to learn and share stories of faith from black Latter-day Saints.
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.