LDS Church marks 30 years of blacks having priesthood


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Sam Penrod reportingThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held a special program tonight, the 30th anniversary of when the Church ended its ban against blacks holding the priesthood.

It was a significant event tonight, the first time the LDS Church has sponsored a program to commemorate the priesthood being given to black male members of the Church. That announcement that was made official 30 years ago today. It was a night of music and celebration in honor of a revelation on June 8, 1978, allowing all men in the LDS Church to be part of the priesthood, regardless of race.

Eddie Gist, a member of the LDS Genesis branch presidency, said, "To put it all out there, that's what I liked about tonight. They didn't pull any punches. They just put it out there and said, ‘OK, this is what happened. What are you going to do with it now?' And for me, it was just really surreal to be here and to celebrate."

The announcement from then Church President Spencer W. Kimball also opened the door for black men and women to attend the Church's temples. Patricia Stringer, a member of the Church's Genesis branch, said, "To just feel the spirit of President Kimball as we watched his recording, it is as if I was there. And it's been an amazing experience."

Even after 30 years, the LDS Church still faces criticism because of the priesthood ban. Elder Sheldon F. Child, of the Church's Quorum of Seventy, said, "I think it will be less and less significant. There are some, of course, that will probably always wonder why, but the Lord is in control, and his time frame and schedule is a little different than ours."

Most black Latter-day Saints do not find controversy in the ban and believe in looking to the future and not scrutinizing the past. Gist says, "I'm just excited to see what happens now. Tonight was a big step for us growing in the Church. I'm just excited to see how things will proceed from here."

The Genesis Branch, comprised of African-American Latter-day Saints, was formed in 1971 to offer support during the years before the priesthood was available. The group still meets once a month.

E-mail: spenrod@ksl.com

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