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From the archives: Responses of joy evoked by 1978 revelation on priesthood

In its first reporting of the 1978 revelation on priesthood, the Church News cited the extensive media attention given and a telegram sent by U.S. President Jimmy Carter. But the report’s most powerful words were responses from black members to the news.

“I shouted for joy,” said Monroe Fleming of Salt Lake City, Utah, a member since 1956. “We have had numerous calls from important people. This seems to be the thing the Lord has prepared. The gates are down. It is up to me to build my life up so that I will be worthy to enter.”

An article headlined “Priesthood news evokes joy” was published in the Church News’ June 17, 1978, issue. The revelation announcement was made Friday, June 9; the June 10 issue had gone to press the previous day.

The Church’s Public Communications (now Public Affairs) office, which released the statement announcing the revelation, received hundreds of phone calls from all across the globe.

All the major television networks featured the announcement in their evening reports, with the NBC Nightly News making it the lead item. Time and Newsweek magazines held up deadlines to include it in their upcoming issues, while the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times carried the story on their front pages, as did many other major newspapers.

U.S. President Jimmy Carter wrote in a telegram to President Spencer W. Kimball: “I welcomed today your announcement as president and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that henceforth all worthy men in your church without regard for race or color may have conferred upon them the priesthood of your church.

“I commend you for your compassionate prayerfulness and courage in receiving a new doctrine. This announcement brings a healing spirit to the world and reminds all men and women that they are truly brothers and sisters.”

Saying the announcement “brought tears of humility, elation and happiness to many members, especialy black men and their families,” the Church News report quoted numerous individuals.

• Robert L. Lang of Inglewood, California: “When I came in, my wife was crying. She had heard the news and was so happy. I know the Church is true and I knew that the time would come when the Lord would make it right. It had not been hard for me to accept the Church. I knew I had found what I was looking for and I gladly accepted it. Delores and I will now get our endowments and will be sealed and do temple work for the dead. I know that they have been waiting for this moment, too.”

Titus Ifedida, a Nigerian doctor living in Manhattan, New York: “This is the true Church, and a true prophet receives revelation from our Heavenly Father. These are facts. Every black member of the Church should humbly pray and realize that we must begin right now to share with others the precious gift of faith, which Heavenly Father has entrusted to us. In the face of disappointments, ingratitude, lack of cooperation, apathy or indifference in our lives, we will be buoyed up and spurred on because we will realize we can be Christ’s instruments in bringing a bit of His warmth to offset the chill when love is absent.”

Paul Devine of San Pedro, California: “It’s the greatest thing that has happened to the black man since we have been in this life.”

José Ramon Diaz from San Juan, Puerto Rico: “I just stood there like someone had struck me — just kind of unconscious. I could not believe it. My knees almost gave way. It means that I can go to the temple and have my family sealed to me.”

Milton Vasquez of New York City, New York: “I have never known such happiness. I am anxious to advance in the priesthood and be married in the temple.”