This month marks the thirty-third anniversary of the 1978 revelation extending the priesthood to “all worthy males” in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since that day, little has been said by Church leaders on any topic related to the ban, including the reasons for the ban, the doctrinal justifications for the ban, and the process by which the ban came into existence in the first place. Even without such clarifications, the Church has nevertheless successfully grown in Africa and in U.S. inner cities with large African-American communities.
Mormon Matters is very pleased this week to for the chance to mark this anniversary by hosting a dynamic discussion of this ban and the revelation that ended it between four black Latter-day Saints. Guest host, Dustin Jones (who will be familiar to many listeners who have heard his Mormon Stories podcast telling of his own experiences growing up black in the Church) recently convened a panel consisting of himself and three fellow seasoned and opinionated black Mormons—Keith N. Hamilton, Darron Smith, and Marguerite Driessen—who, like him, have spent the last three decades learning about and attempting to understand the LDS Church’s “negro doctrine.” Collectively the group is made up of three outspoken lawyers, one unabashed sociology Ph.D., three high priests, two former bishopric counselors, three former stake high councilors, two current BYU adjunct law professors, one former BYU professor, and a Relief Society president.
We at Mormon Matters are honored by this opportunity to “listen in” on their spirited (both in its “faith” connotation as well as hinting at their lively differences of opinion!) discussion of their individual interpretations of Official Declaration 2; statements made by Brigham Young and Bruce R. McConkie, Gordon B. Hinckley’s 2006 talk about “racial slurs,” the process by which the Brethren received the revelation, and what they see as the best way to move beyond the Church’s troubled history on this matter. For each panelist, dealing with this history is ultimately a matter of faith, however, as this discussion shows very well, the swing of the pendulum between faith and fact is an interesting dynamic that all black Mormon must balance for themselves.