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SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints celebrated the 35th anniversary since the announcement of the revelation allowing black men in the faith to receive the priesthood.
The announcement was breaking news on June 9th, 1978, and many members of the LDS Church said it was one of those moments they will never forget how they felt.
"That's something that had been hoped for and longed for decades, but I thought it wouldn't happen in my lifetime so the first part was surprise," said former president of the Genesis Group Darius Gray.
Other church members said the announcement gave them hope for the future.
"I hear a lot of things about the priesthood and why there was a ban and all that," said Winston Wilkinson. "I would tend to say personally, just to look forward."
Church leaders point to the success of missionaries in West Africa since 1978. Missionaries arrived five months after the announcement, and now there are hundreds of thousands of members and temples in both Ghana and Nigeria.
We are children of the same God. We are literally brothers and sisters and people don't think about that.
–Darius Gray, former president of the Genesis Group
In 2008, thousands gathered on Temple Square for a concert and celebration.
For decades, Church leaders faced criticism, from those asking why there was ever a ban on black men receiving the priesthood? Three months ago, Church leaders added historical context to the 1978 revelation.
In 2013 editions of Latter-day Saint scriptures, it reads:
"During Joseph Smith's lifetime, a few Black male members of the Church were ordained to the priesthood. Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on Black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice."
Gray said whatever the reasons, the announcement was a long time in coming and he points to many positives for black men and their families in the faith. However, he is concerned about negative reactions he has heard throughout the country since the announcement was made.
"Some of that language from the political speech is harming," Gray said. "And we need to be careful. We are children of the same God. We are literally brothers and sisters and people don't think about that."
Gray said that black Latter-day Saints can look forward to more revelation from the Church.
"We have a dynamic faith, a living church with living leaders, prophets and there's always going to be change," he said. "And there's going to be change on this issue, I'm sure, as well."